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S. G. and E. L. ELBERT 




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443 & 445 BKOADWAT. 

Entebed according to Act of Congress, in the year 1865, by 


in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York. 


The following historical narrative of the events preceding 
the late rebellion was prepared soon after its outbreak, sub- 
stantially in the present form. It may be asked, Why, then, was 
it not published at an earlier period ? The answer is, that the 
publication was delayed to avoid the possible imputation, un- 
just as this would have been, that any portion of it was in- 
tended to embarrass Mr. Lincoln's administration in the vigor- 
ous prosecution of pending hostilities. The author deemed it 
far better to suffer temporary injustice than to expose himself 
to such a charge. He never doubted the successful event of 
the war, even during its most gloomy periods. Having drawn 
his first breath soon after the adoption of the Federal Constitu- 
tion and the Union which it established, and having been an 
eye-witness of the blessed effects of these, in securing liberty 
and prosperity at home, and in presenting an example to the 
oppressed of other lands, he felt an abiding conviction that the 
American people would never suffer the Great Charter of their 
rights to be destroyed. To the Constitution, as interpreted by 
its framers, he has ever been devoted, believing that the specific 


powers which, it confers on the Federal Government, notwith- 
standing the experience of the last dreary years, are sufficient 
for almost every possible emergency, whether in peace or in 
war. He, therefore, claims the merit — if merit it be simply to 
do one's duty — that whilst in the exercise of Executive func- 
tions, he never violated any of its provisions. 

It may be observed that no extensive and formidable rebel- 
lion of an intelligent people against an established Government 
has ever arisen without a long train of previous and subsidiary 
causes. A principal object of the author, therefore, is to pre- 
sent to the reader a historical sketch of the antecedents ending 
in the late rebellion. In performing this task, the eye naturally 
fixes itself, as the starting point, upon the existence of domestic 
slavery in the South, recognized and protected as this was by 
the Constitution of the United States. We shall not inquire 
whether its patriotic and enlightened framers acted with wise 
foresight in yielding their sanction to an institution which is in 
itself a great social evil, though they considered this was neces- 
sary to avoid the still greater calamity of dissolving the Con- 
vention without the formation of our Federal Union. 

The narrative will prove that the original and conspiring 
causes of all our future troubles are to be found in the long, 
active, and persistent hostility of the Northern Abolitionists, 
both in and out of Congress, against Southern slavery, until the 
final triumph of their cause in the election of President Lin- 
coln ; and on the other hand, the corresponding antagonism and 
violence with which the advocates of slavery resisted these ef- 
forts, and vindicated its preservation and extension up till the 
period of secession. So excited were the parties, that had they 


intended to furnish material to inflame the passions of the one 
against the other, they could not have more effectually suc- 
ceeded than they did by their mutual criminations and recrimi- 
nations. The struggle continued without intermission for more 
than the quarter of a century, except within the brief interval 
between the passage of the Compromise measures of 1850 and 
the repeal of the Missouri Compromise in 1854, during which 
the hostile feelings of the parties were greatly allayed, and 
hopes were entertained that the strife might finally subside. 
These peaceful prospects, it will appear, were soon blasted by 
the repeal of this Compromise, and the struggle was then re- 
newed with more bitterness than ever until the final catastro- 
phe. Many grievous errors were committed by both parties 
from the beginning, but the most fatal of them all was the se- 
cession of the cotton States. 

The authorities cited in the work will show that Mr. Bu- 
chanan never failed, upon all suitable occasions, to warn his 
countrymen of the approaching danger, and to advise them of 
the proper means to avert it. Both before and after he became 
President he was an earnest advocate of compromise between 
the parties to save the Union, but Congress disregarded his rec- 
ommendations. Even after he had, in his messages, exposed 
the dangerous condition of public affairs, and when it had be- 
come morally certain that all his efforts to avoid the civil war 
would be frustrated by agencies far beyond his control, they 
persistently refused to pass any measures enabling him or his 
successor to execute the laws against armed resistance, or to 
defend the country against approaching rebellion. 

The book concludes by a notice of the successful domestic 


and foreign policy of the administration. In the portion of it 
concerning our relations with the Mexican Republic, a history 
of the origin and nature of " the Monroe doctrine " is appro- 
priately included. 

It has been the author's intention, in the following pages, to 
yerify every statement of fact by a documentary or other au- 
thentic reference, and thus save the reader, as far as may be 
possible, from reliance on individual memory. From the use 
of private correspondence he has resolutely abstained. 

Wheatland, September, 1865. 




The rise and progress of Anti-Slavery agitation — The Higher Law — Anti-Sla- 
very Societies — Their formation and proceedings — Their effect destructive 
of State Emancipation — The case in Virginia — Employment of the Post Office 
to circulate incendiary publications and pictures among the slaves — Message 
of General Jackson to prohibit this by law — His recommendation defeated — 
The Pulpit, the Press, and other agencies— Abolition Petitions — The rise of 
an extreme Southern Pro-Slavery party — The Fugitive Slave Law of 1793, and 
the case of Prigg vs. Pennsylvania, and its pernicious effects — The South 
threaten Secession — The course of Mr. Buchanan as Senator — The Wilmot 
Proviso and its consequences — The Union in serious danger at the meeting 
of Congress in December, 1849, . . . . . .9 


Meeting of Congress in December, 1849 — The five Acts constituting the Com- 
promise of September, 1850 — Effect of the Compromise in allaying excitement 
— Whig and Democratic Platforms indorse it — President Pierce's happy ref- 
erence to it in his Message of December, 1853 — The repeal of the Missouri 
Compromise reopens the slavery agitation — Its passage in March, 1820, and 
character — Its recognition by Congress in 1845, on the Annexation of Texas — 
The history of its repeal — This repeal gives rise to the Kansas troubles — 
Their nature and history — The Lecompton Constitution and proceedings of 
Congress upon it — The Republican party greatly strengthened — Decision of 
the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case — Repudiated by the Republican 
party and by the Douglas Democracy — Sustained by the old Democracy — The 
Kansas and Nebraska Act — The policy and practice of Congress toward the 
Territories — Abuse of President Buchanan for not adhering to the Cincinnati 
Platform without foundation, . . . . . . .21 




Senator Seward — The "Irrepressible Conflict" — Helper's "Impending Crisis" — 
The John Brown Raid — The nature of Fanaticism — The Democratic National 
Convention at Charleston — Its proceedings and adjournment to Baltimore — 
Reassembling at Baltimore and proceedings there — Its breaking up and di- 
vision into the Douglas and the Breckinridge Conventions — Proceedings of 
each — Review of the whole and the effect on the South, . . .57 


The heresy of Secession — Originated in New England — Maintained by Josiah 
Quincy and the Hartford Convention, by Mr. Rawle and Mr. John Quincy 
Adams, but opposed by the South — Southern Secession dates from South Car- 
olina Nullification— Its character and history — The Compromise Tariff of 1833 
— The Nullifiers agitate for Secession — Mr. Calhoun — Mr. Cobb against it— r 
Warnings of the Democratic party — They are treated with contempt — Seces- 
sion encouraged by the Republicans — The Cotton States led to believe they 
would be allowed to depart in peace — President Buchanan warned them 
against this delusion, . . . . . . . .86 


General Scott's "Views," and the encouragement they afforded to the cotton 
States to secede — Their publication by him in the "National Intelligencer" — 
His recommendation in favor of four distinct Confederacies —His recommen- 
dation to reenforce nine of the Southern forts, and the inadequacy of the 
troops — The reason of this inadequacy — The whole army required on the fron- 
tiers — The refusal of Congress to increase it — Our fortifications necessarily 
left without sufficient garrisons for want of troops — The President's duty to 
refrain from any hostile act against the cotton States, and smooth the way to 
a compromise — The rights of those States in no danger from Mr. Lincoln's 
election — Their true policy was to cling to the Union, . . . .99 


Mr. Lincoln's election to the Presidency — Its danger to the Union — Warnings of 
the President and his trying position — His policy in the emergency, and the 
reasons for it — His supreme object the preservation of the Union — Meeting of 
Congress, and the hostility of the two parties toward each other — The wrongs 
of the South — How rash and causeless would be rebellion in the cotton States 
— The right of secession discussed and denied in the Message — The President's 
position defined — Question of th*e power to coerce a State — Distinction be- 
tween the power to wage war against a State, and the power to execute the 
laws against individuals — Views of Senator (now President) Johnson, of Ten- 
nessee — President Buchanan's solemn appeal in favor of the Union — His es- 
trangement from the secession leaders — Cessation of all friendly intercourse 
between him and them, . ..... 108 




Refusal of Congress to act either with a view to conciliation or defence — The Sen- 
ate Committee of Thirteen and its proceedings — Mr. Crittenden submits his 
Compromise to the Committee — Its nature — The Committee unable to agree — 
Testimony of Messrs. Douglas and Toombs that the Crittenden Compromise 
would have arrested secession in the cotton States — Mr. Crittenden proposes 
to refer his amendment to the people of the several States by an act of ordi- 
nary legislation — His remarks in its favor — Proceedings thereon — Expression 
of public opinion in its favor — President Buchanan recommends it — Recom- 
mendation disregarded and proposition defeated by the Clark amendment — 
Observations thereon — Peace Convention proposed by Virginia — Its meeting 
and proceedings — Amendment to the Constitution reported by Mr. Guthrie, 
chairman of the committee — Its modification on motion of Mr. Franklin, and 
final adoption by the Convention — Virginia and North Carolina vote with 
Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont against it 
— Its rejection by the United States Senate — The House of Representatives 
refuse even to receive it — Every Republican member in both branches of Con- 
gress opposed to it, ........ 134 


Congress passes no measures to enable the President to execute the laws or de- 
fend the Government — They decline to revive the authority of the Federal 
Judiciary in South Carolina, suspended by the resignation of all the judicial 
officers — They refuse authority to call forth the militia or accept volunteers, 
to suppress insurrections against the United States, and it was never proposed 
to grant an appropriation' for this purpose — The Senate declines throughout 
the entire session to act upon the nomination of a Collector of the Port of 
Charleston — Congress refuses to grant to the President the authority long 
since expired, which had been granted to General Jackson for the collection 
of the revenue — The 36th Congress expires, leaving the law just as they found 
it — General observations, ........ 153 


The forts in Charleston harbor — Conduct toward them and the reasons for it — 
To guard against surprise reenforcements ready — Instructions to Major An- 
derson — Interview with South Carolina members — General Scott again recom- 
mends the garrisoning of all the forts — Reasons against it — The compromise 
measures still depending — Want of troops — Observations on General Scott's 
report to President Lincoln — His letter to Secretary Seward, and the man- 
ner in which it, with the report, was brought to light and published — Mr. Bu- 
chanan's reply to the report — General Scott's statement of the interview 
with President Buchanan on 15th December, and observations thereupon — 
The example of General Jackson in 1833, and why it was inapplicable, . 162 


South Carolina adopts an ordinance of secession, and appoints Commissioners to 
treat with the General Government — Their arrival in Washington — Major An- 



derson's removal from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter — The President's inter- 
view with the Commissioners, who demand a surrender of all the forts — His 
answer to this demand — Their insolent reply, and its return to them — Its pre- 
sentation to the Senate by Mr. Davis — Secretary Floyd requested to resign — 
He resigns and becomes a secessionist — Fort Sumter threatened — The Brook- 
lyn ordered to carry reinforcements to the fort— The Star of the West substi- 
tuted at General Scott's instance — She is fired upon — Major Anderson de- 
mands of Governor Pickens a disavowal of the act — The Governor demands 
the surrender of the fort — The Major proposes to refer the question to Wash- 
ington — The Governor accepts — The truce — Colonel Hayne and Lieutenant 
Hall arrive in Washington on the 13th January — Letter from Governor Pickens 
not delivered to the President until the 31st January — The answer to it — 
Colonel Hayne' s insulting reply — It is returned to him — Virginia sends Mr. 
Tyler to the President with a view to avoid hostilities — His arrival in Wash- 
ington and his proposals — Message of the President, .... 180 


Fort Sumter again — An expedition prepared to relieve it — The expedition aban- 
doned on account of a despatch from Major Anderson — Mr. Holt's letter to 
President Lincoln — Fort Pickens in Florida — Its danger from the rebels— 
The Brooklyn ordered to its relief — The means by which it was saved from 
capture approved by General Scott and Messrs. Holt and Toucey, with the 
rest of the Cabinet — Refutation of the charge that arms had been stolen — Re- 
port of the Committee on Military Affairs and other documentary evidence — 
The Southern and Southwestern States received less than their quota of 
arms — The Pittsburg cannon — General Scott's unfounded claim to the credit 
of preventing their shipment to the South — Removal of old muskets— Their 
value — Opinion of Mr. Holt in regard to the manner in which President Bu- 
chanan conducted the administration, ...... 209 


The reduction of the expenses of the Government under Mr. Buchanan's admin- 
istration — The expedition to Utah — The Covode Committee, . . . 231 


The successful foreign policy of the administration with Spain, Great Britain, 
China, and Paraguay — Condition of the Mexican Republic ; and the recom- 
mendations to Congress thereupon not regarded, and the effect — The treaty 
with Mexico not ratified by the Senate, and the consequences — The origin, 
history, and nature of the "Monroe Doctrine," . . . .258 



The rise and progress of Anti-Slavery agitation — The Higher Law — Anti-Slavery 
Societies — Their formation and proceedings — Their effect destructive of State 
Emancipation — The case in Virginia — Employment of the Post Office to circulate 
incendiary publications and pictures among the slaves — Message of General Jack- 
son to prohibit this bylaw — His recommendation defeated — The Pulpit, the Press, 
and other agencies — Abolition Petitions — The rise of an extreme Southern Pro- 
Slavery party — The Fugitive Slave Law of 1793, and the case of Prigg vs. Penn- 
sylvania, and its pernicious effects — The South threaten Secession — The course 
of Mr. Buchanan as Senator — The Wilmot Proviso and its consequences — The 
Union in serious danger at the meeting of CoDgress in December, 1849. 

That the Constitution does not confer upon Congress power 
to interfere with slavery in the States, has been admitted by all 
parties and confirmed by all judicial decisions ever since the ori- 
gin of the Federal Government. This doctrine was emphatically 
recognized by the House of Representatives in the days of 
"Washington, during the first session of the first Congress,* and 
has never since been seriously called in question. Hence, it be- 
came necessary for the abolitionists, in order to furnish a pretext 
for their assaults on Southern slavery, to appeal to a law higher 
than the Constitution. 

Slavery, according to them, was a grievous sin against God, 
and therefore no human Constitution could rightfully shield it 
from destruction. It was sinful to live in a political confed- 
eracy which tolerated slavery in any of the States composing it ; 
and if this could not be eradicated, it would become a sacred 

* Annals of Congress, vol. ii., p. 1474, Sept. 1, 1789-90. 

10 mr. Buchanan's administration 

duty for the free States to separate from their guilty associates. 
This doctrine of the higher law was preached from the pulpits 
and disseminated in numerous publications throughout New 
England. At the first, it was regarded with contempt as the 
work of misguided fanatics. Ere long, however, it enlisted nu- 
merous and enthusiastic partisans. These were animated with 
indomitable zeal in a cause they deemed so holy. They consti- 
tuted the movement party, and went ahead ; because, whether 
from timidity or secret sympathy, the conservative masses failed 
in the beginning to resist its progress in an active and deter- 
mined spirit. 

The anti-slavery party in its career never stopped to reflect 
that slavery was a domestic institution, exclusively under the 
control of the sovereign States where it existed ; and therefore, 
if sinful in itself, it was certainly not the sin of the people of 
New England. With equal justice might conscience have im- 
pelled citizens of Massachusetts to agitate for the suppression 
of slavery in Brazil as in South Carolina. In both cases they 
were destitute of all rightful power over the subject. 

The Constitution having granted to Congress no power over 
slavery in the States, the abolitionists were obliged to resort to 
indirect means outside of the Constitution to accomplish their 
object. The most powerful of these was anti-slavery agitation : 
agitation for the double purpose of increasing the number of 
their partisans at home, and of exciting a spirit of discontent and 
resistance among the slaves of the South. This agitation was 
conducted by numerous anti-slavery societies scattered over the 
North. It was a new and important feature of their organiza- 
tion that women were admitted as members. Sensitive and en- 
thusiastic in their nature against wrong, and believing slavery to 
be a mortal sin, they soon became public speakers, in spite of the 
injunctions of an inspired apostle; and their harangues were 
quite as violent and extreme as those of their fathers, husbands, 
and brothers. Their influence as mothers was thus secured and 
directed to the education of the rising generation in anti-slavery 
principles. Never was an organization planned and conducted 
with greater skill and foresight for the eventual accomplishment 
of its object. 


The New England Anti-Slavery Society was organized in 
Boston on January 30th, 1832 ; that of New York in October, 
1833 ; and the National Society wasorganized in Philadelphia 
in December, 1833. Affiliated societies soon became numer- 

After the formation of the New England society the agitation 
against Southern slavery proceeded with redoubled vigor, and 
this under the auspices of British emissaries. One of the first 
and most pernicious effects of these proceedings was to arrest 
the natural progress of emancipation under legitimate State 

When this agitation commenced, the subject of such emanci- 
pation was freely discussed in the South, and especially in the 
grain-growing border States, and had enlisted numerous and 
powerful advocates. In these States the institution had become 
unprofitable. According to the witty and eccentric Yirginian, Mr. 
Randolph, if the slave did not soon run away from the master, 
the master would run away from the slave. Besides, at this 
period nobody loved slavery for its own sake. 

Virginia, whose example has always exercised great influence 
on her sister States, was, in 1832, on the verge of emancipation.* 
The current was then running strong in its favor throughout the 
State. Many of the leading men, both the principal newspapers, 
and probably a majority of the people sustained the policy 
and justice of emancipation. Numerous petitions in its favor 
were presented to the General Assembly. Mr. Jefferson Ran- 
dolph, a worthy grandson of President Jefferson, and a delegate 
from one of the largest slaveholding counties of the common- 
wealth (Albemarle), brought forward a bill in the House to ac- 
complish the object. This was fully and freely discussed, and 
was advocated by many prominent members. Not a voice 
was raised throughout the debate in favor of slavery. Mr. Ran- 
dolph, finding the Legislature not quite prepared for so deci- 
sive a measure, did not press it to a final vote; but yet the House 
resolved, by a majority of 65 to 58, " that they were profoundly 
sensible of the great evils arising from the condition of the color- 
ed population of the commonwealth, and were induced by policy 

* Letter of Geo. W. Bandolpb. to Nahum Capen, of 18th April, 1851. 


as well as humanity to attempt the immediate removal of the free 
negroes ; but that further action for the removal of the slaves 
should await a more definite development of public opinion." 

Mr. Randolph's course was approved by his constituents, and 
at the next election he was returned by them as a member of the 
House of Delegates, on this very question. Unfortunately, at 
this moment the anti-slavery agitation in New England began 
to assume an alarming aspect for the peace and security of the 
Southern people. In consequence, they denounced it as a foreign 
and dangerous interference with rights which the Constitution 
had left exclusively under their own control. An immediate and 
powerful reaction against emancipation by State authority was 
the 'result, and this good cause, to which so many able and 
patriotic Southern men had been devoted, was sacrificed. 

Mr. Randolph himself, a short time thereafter, expressed a 
confident belief to the author, that but for this interference, the 
General Assembly would, at no distant day, have passed a law 
for gradual emancipation. He added, so great had been the re- 
vulsion of public sentiment in Virginia, that no member of that 
body would now dare to propose such a measure. 

The abolitionists became bolder and bolder as they advanced. 
They did not hesitate to pervert the Post Office Department of 
the Government to the advancement of their cause. Through 
its agency, at an early period, they scattered throughout 
the slaveholding States pamphlets, newspapers, and pictorial 
representations of an incendiary character, calculated to arouse 
the savage passions of the slaves to servile insurrection. So 
alarming had these efforts become to the domestic peace of the 
South, that General Jackson recommended they should be pro- 
hibited by law, under severe penalties. He said, in his annual 
message of 2d December, 1835 : " I must also invite your attention 
to the painful excitemeDt produced in the South by attempts to 
circulate, through the mails, inflammatory appeals addressed to 
the passions of the slaves, in prints, and in various sorts of pub- 
lications, calculated to stimulate them to insurrection and to pro- 
duce all the horrors of a servile war." * And he also commended to 
the special attention of Congress " the propriety of passing such a 

* 2 Statesman's Manual, 1018. 


law as will prohibit, under severe penalties, the circulation in the 
Southern States, through the mails, of incendiary publications in- 
tended to instigate the slaves to insurrection." * 

A bill for this purpose was reported to the Senate, but after a 
long and animated debate, it was negatived, on the 8th of June, 
1836, by a vote of 19 to 25.f It is worthy of remark, that even 
at this early period not a single Senator from New England, 
whether political friend or opponent of General Jackson, voted 
in favor of the measure he had so emphatically recommended. 
All the Senators from that portion of the Union, under the lead 
of Messrs. Webster and Davis, of Massachusetts, denied to Con- 
gress the Constitutional power of passing any law to prevent the 
abolitionists from using our own mails to circulate incendiary 
documents throughout the slaveholding States, even though 
these were manifestly intended to promote servile insurrection 
and civil war within their limits. The power and duty of Con- 
gress to pass the bill were earnestly urged by Mr. Buchanan, 
then a Senator from Pennsylvania, in opposition to the objections 
of Mr. Webster. 

This anti-slavery agitation in ISTew England was prosecuted by 
other and different agencies. The pulpit, the press, State Le- 
gislatures, State and county conventions, anti-slavery societies, 
and abolition lectures were all employed for this purpose. 
Prominent among them were what were called, in the lan- 
guage of the day, abolition petitions. 

Throughout the session of 1835-'6, and for several succeeding 
sessions, these petitions incessantly poured in to Congress. They 
prayed for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, 
and in the forts, magazines, arsenals, and dockyards of the United 
States within the slaveholding States. They also protested 
against the admission of any new slaveholding State into the 
Union, and some of them went even so far as to petition for a 
dissolution of the Union itself. 

These petitions were signed by hundreds of thousands of men, 
women, and children. In them slavery was denounced as a na- 
tional sin and a national disgrace. Every epithet was employed 

* 2 Statesman's Manual, p. 1019. 

t Senate Journal, June 2, 1836, pp. 399, 400, and Con. Globe of June 8, 1836. 

14: me. buchakan's administration 

calculated to arouse the indignation of the Southern people. The 
time of Congress was wasted in violent debates on the subject of 
slavery. In these it would be difficult to determine which of the 
opposing parties was guilty of the greatest excess. Whilst the 
South threatened disunion unless the agitation should cease, the 
North treated such threats with derision and defiance. It be- 
came manifest to every reflecting man that two geographical 
parties, the one embracing the people north and the other those 
south of Mason and Dixon's line, were in rapid process of for- 
mation — an event so much dreaded by the Father of his 

It is easy to imagine the effect of this agitation upon the proud, 
sensitive, and excitable people of the South. One extreme natu- 
rally begets another. Among the latter there sprung up a party 
as fanatical in advocating slavery as were the abolitionists of the 
North in denouncing it. At the first, and for a long time, this 
party was small in numbers, and found it difficult to excite the 
masses to support its extreme views. These Southern fanatics, 
instead of admitting slavery to be an evil in itself, pronounced 
it to be a great good. Instead of admitting that it had been re- 
luctantly recognized by the Constitution as an overruling poli- 
tical necessity, they extolled it as the surest support of freedom 
among the white race. If the fanatics of the North denounced 
slavery as evil and only evil, and that continually, the fanatics 
of the South upheld it as fraught with blessings to the slave as 
well as to his master. Far different was the estimation in which 
it was held by Southern patriots and statesmen both before and 
for many years after the adoption of the Constitution. These 
looked forward hopefully to the day when, with safety both to 
the white and black race, it might be abolished by the people 
of the slaveholding States themselves, who alone possessed the 

The late President, as a Senator of the United States, from 
December, 1834, until March, 1845, lost no opportunity of warn- 
ing his countrymen of the danger to the Union from a persist- 
ence in this anti-slavery agitation, and of beseeching them to 
suffer the people of the South to manage their domestic affairs 
in their own way. All they desired, to employ their oft-repeat- 


ed language, was " to be let alone." With a prophetic vision, at 
so early a period as the 9th March, 1836, he employed the fol- 
lowing language in.the Senate : " Sir," said Mr. B., " this ques- 
tion of domestic slavery is the weak point in our institutions. 
Tariffs may be raised almost to prohibition, and then they may 
be reduced so as to yield no adequate protection to the manufac- 
turer; our Union is sufficiently strong to endure the shock. 
Fierce political storms may arise — the moral elements of the 
country may be convulsed by the struggles of ambitious men for 
the highest honors of the Government — the sunshine does not 
more certainly succeed the storm, than that all will again be 
peace. Touch this question of slavery seriously — let it once be 
made manifest to the people of the South that they cannot live 
with us, except in a state of continual apprehension and alarm 
for their wives and their children, for all that is near and dear to 
them upon the earth — and the Union is from that moment dis- 
solved. It does not then become a question of expediency, but 
of self-preservation. It is a question brought home to the fire- 
side, to the domestic circle of every white man in the Southern 
States. This day, this dark and gloomy day for the Republic, 
will, I most devoutly trust and believe, never arrive. Although, 
in Pennsylvania, we are all opposed to slavery in the abstract, 
yet we will never violate the Constitutional compact which we 
have made with our lister States. Their rights will be held 
sacred by us. Under the Constitution it is their own question, 
and there let it remain." * 

A new source of anti-slavery agitation was about this time 
opened against the execution of the old Fugitive Slave Law, passed 
in February, 1793. 

This was greatly increased by the decision of the Supreme 
Court of the United States, at the January term, 1842, in the case 
of Prigg vs. the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, f It is true, 
the opinion of the Court, delivered by Mr. Justice Story, 
explicitly affirmed the Constitutional right of the master 
to recover his fugitive slave in any State to which he had fled. 
It even went so far as to clothe the master himself " with full 

* Gales and Seaton's Register of Debates, vol. xii., part 1, 1835-6, p. 781. 

t 16 Peters, 539. 

16 me. Buchanan's administration 

authority, in every State of the Union, to seize and recapture 
his slave, wherever he can do it without a breach of the peace 
or any illegal violence." After these strong affirmations it be- 
comes necessary to state the reason why this decision became the 
occasion of increased anti-slavery agitation. 

The act of 1793 * authorized and required State judges and 
magistrates, in common with judges of the United States, to 
carry its provisions into effect. At the date of its passage no 
doubt was entertained of the power of Congress to direct this 
duty to be performed by appropriate State authorities. From 
the small number of Federal judges in each State, and their dis- 
tance from each other, the masters, in almost every instance, re- 
sorted to the magistrate of the " county, city, or town corporate," 
where the slave had been arrested. Before him the necessary proof 
was made, and, upon being satisfied, he granted a certificate to the 
"master, which was a sufficient warrant under the law " for re- 
moving the said fugitive from labor to the State or Territory 
from which he or she fled." These State magistrates' were fa- 
miliar to the people of the respective localities, and their duties 
were performed in a satisfactory manner, and with but little 
complaint or commotion. This continued to be the practice 
until the opinion of the Court in the case of Prigg was pro- 
nounced. In this it was decided that State magistrates were 
not bound to perform these duties ; and the question whether 
they would do so or not, was left entirely to their own discre- 

It was thus rendered competent for State Legislatures to pro- 
hibit their own functionaries from aiding in the execution of the 
Fugitive Slave Act. 

Then commenced a furious agitation against the execution 
of this so-called "sinful and inhuman" law. State magistrates 
were prevailed upon by the abolitionists to refuse their agency in 
carrying it into effect. The Legislatures of several States, in 
conformity with this decision, passed laws prohibiting these 
magistrates and other State officials from assisting in its execu- 
tion. The use of the State jails was denied for the safe-keep- 
ing of the fugitives. Personal Liberty Bills were passed, inter- 

* 1 U. S. L. 302. 


posing insurmountable obstacles to the recovery of slaves. Every 
means which ingenuity could devise was put in operation to 
render the law a dead letter. Indeed, the excitement against it 
rose so high that the life and liberty of the master who pursued 
his fugitive slave into a free State were placed in imminent peril. 
For this he was often imprisoned, and, in some instances, 
murdered. • 

The Fugitive Slave Law, although passed under the admin- 
istration of Washington for the purpose of carrying into effect a 
plain, clear, and mandatory provision of the Constitution, was 
set at naught. And this was done in the face of a well-known 
historical fact, that without such a provision the Constitution it- 
self never could have existed. Without this law the slaveholder 
would have had no remedy to enforce his Constitutional right. 
There would have been no security for his property. If the 
slave, by simply escaping across a State line, could make him- 
self free, the guarantees of the Constitution in favor of the mas- 
ter would be effectually abolished. These very guarantees were 
rendered practically of little or no avail, by the decision of the 
Court in the case of Prigg vs. Pennsylvania, declaring that the 
Congress of 1793 had violated the Constitution by requiring 
State magistrates to aid in executing the law. 

We have no disposition to dispute the binding force of this 
decision, although made by a bare majority against the opinion 
of Chief- Justice Taney and three other judges. It was never- 
theless pronounced by the Constitutional tribunal in the last re- 
sort, and therefore challenges the obedience, if not the approval, 
of every law-abiding citizen. 

Mr. Justice Story himself seems to have clearly and compla- 
cently foreseen the injurious consequences to the rights of the 
slaveholder which would result from his decision. In his 
biography, written by his son (vol. ii., p. 392), it is stated : " But 
in establishing, contrary to the opinion of four of the judges, that 
the extradition of fugitive slaves is exclusively within the juris- 
diction of the Federal Government, and that the State Legisla- 
tures are prohibited from interfering, even to assist in giving 
effect to the clause in the Constitution on this subject ; he (Judge 
Story) considered that a great point had been gained for liberty; 

18 mr. Buchanan's administration 

so great a point, indeed, that, on his return from Washington, he 
repeatedly and earnestly spoke of it to his family and his inti- 
mate friends as being i a triumph of freedom.' " 

Again (page 394) : " Nor were these views contradicted by 
subsequent experience. From the day of the decision of Prigg 
vs. the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the act of 1793 was," says 
his biographer, 6< a dead lejtter in the free States." 

The slaveholders, thus deprived of their rights, began to 
threaten secession from the Union. They contended that, the 
people of the Northern States having violated the Constitution 
in a fundamental provision necessary to their peace and safety, 
they of the South, according to the settled rules governing the 
construction of all contracts, whether between States or individ- 
uals, had a right to rescind it altogether. 

In 1846, in the midst of the agitation against the Fugitive 
Slave Law, came that on the "Wilmot Proviso. This asserted it 
to be the right and duty of Congress to prohibit the people of the 
Southern States from emigrating with their slave property to the 
common territory of the United States, which might be acquired 
by the war with Mexico. Thus was raised anew the question in 
regard to slavery in the territories, which has since proved so 

In May, 1846, the existence of war with Mexico, by the act 
of that Republic, was recognized by Congress, and measures were 
adopted for its prosecution.* 

On the 4th of August, 1846, near the close of the session,-)* 
President Polk, desirous of restoring peace as speedily as pos- 
sible, and of adjusting the boundaries between the two Republics 
in a satisfactory manner, asked Congress for a small contingent 
appropriation, to be applied to this purpose, which it might or 
might not become necessary to employ before their next meet- 
ing. Accordingly, on the 8th of August a bill was presented to 
the House granting the President $2,000,000. 

To this bill Mr. Wilmot offered his proviso as an amend- 
ment. X The proviso declared " That, as an express and funda- 
mental condition to the acquisition of any territory from the 

* Act of 13th May, 1846 ; 9 U. S. S. at Large, p. 9. +3 Statesman's Manual, 1610. 

% Con. Globe, 1845-' 6, p. 1217. 


Republic of Mexico by the United States, by virtue of any treaty 
which may be negotiated between them, and to the use by the 
Executive of the moneys herein appropriated, neither slavery nor 
involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said terri- 
tory, except for crime, whereof the party shall first be duly con- 

Had this proviso been never so proper in itself, it was both 
out of time and out of place. Out of time, because, whether any 
treaty could be made acquiring territory from Mexico, was fu- 
ture and contingent ; and in fact that of Guadalupe Hidalgo, 
under which we acquired Upper California and New Mexico, 
was not concluded until almost eighteen months thereafter. * 
But Mr. Wilmot was so eager to introduce this new subject 
for anti-slavery agitation, that he could not await the regular 
course of events. 

The proviso was also out of place in an appropriation bill 
confined to a single important object, because it was calculated 
to defeat, as it actually did defeat, the appropriation. It was a 
firebrand recklessly and prematurely cast among the free and 
slave States, at a moment when a foreign war was raging, in 
which all were gallantly fighting, side by side, to conquer an 
honorable peace. This was the moment selected, long in ad- 
vance, to announce to the people of the slaveholding States 
that if we should acquire any new territory by our common 
blood and treasure, they should forever be prohibited from en- 
tering any portion of it with by far the most valuable part of 
their property. 

The introduction of this proviso instantly caused the flames 
of fanaticism to burn with more intense ardor, both North and 
South, than they had ever done before. How wise is the Divine 
maxim, that " sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof " ! 

The new territory afterwards acquired from Mexico, being 
outside of the ancient province of Louisiana, was not embraced 
by the Missouri Compromise. The late President, then Secre- 
tary of State, strongly urged the extension of the line of 36° 30' 
through this territory to the Pacific Ocean, as the best mode of 
adjustment. He believed that its division by this ancient line, 

* Treaty, Feb. 2, 1848 ; 9 U. S. Statutes at Large, 922. 

20 me. Buchanan's administration 

to which we had been long accustomed, would be more just in 
itself, and more acceptable to the people, both North and South, 
than any new plan which could be devised.* 

This proposal was defeated by the Wilmot Proviso. That 
ill-starred measure continued to be forced upon the considera- 
tion of Congress, as well as of State Legislatures, session after ses- 
sion, in various forms. Whilst Northern Legislatures were pass- 
ing resolutions instructing their Senators and requesting their 
Representatives to vote for the Wilmot Proviso, Southern Le- 
gislatures and conventions were passing resolutions pledging 
themselves to measures of resistance. 

The interposition of the proviso, in season and out of season, 
and the violent and protracted debates to which it gave rise, de- 
feated the establishment of territorial governments in California 
and New Mexico throughout the whole of the thirtieth Con- 
gress (1847-8 and 1848-'9). Meanwhile it placed the two sections 
of the Union in hostile array against each other. The people of 
the one, instead of regarding those of the other as brethren, were 
converted into deadly enemies. . At the meeting of the thirty- 
first Congress (December, 1849) serious apprehensions were every- 
where entertained, among the most enlightened and purest pa- 
triots, for the safety of the Union. The necessity was admitted 
by all that measures should be adopted to ward off the impend- 
ing danger. 

* Letter to Berks County, Aug. 25, 1847. 



Meeting of Congress in December, 1849 — The fire Acts constituting the Compromise 
of September, 1850 — Effect of the Compromise in allaying excitement — "Whig and 
Democratic Platforms indorse it — President Pierce's happy reference to it in his 
Message of December, 1853 — The repeal of the Missouri Compromise reopens the 
slavery agitation — Its passage in March, 1820, and character — Its recognition by 
Congress in 1845, on the Annexation of Texas — The history of its repeal — This 
repeal gives rise to the Kansas troubles — Their nature and history — The Lecomp- 
ton Constitution and proceedings of Congress upon it — The Republican party 
greatly strengthened — Decision of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case — 
Repudiated by the Republican party and by the Douglas Democracy — Sustained 
by the old Democracy — The Kansas and Nebraska Act — The policy and practice 
of Congress toward the' Territories — Abuse of President Buchanan for not adher- 
ing to the Cincinnati Platform without foundation. 

The thirty-first Congress assembled on the first Monday of 
December, 1849, and they happily succeeded in averting the 
present danger by the adoption of one of those wise com- 
promises which had previously proved so beneficent to the 

The first ray of light to penetrate the gloom emanated from 
the great and powerful State of Pennsylvania. Her House of 
Representatives refused to consider instructing resolutions in 
favor of the "Wilmot Proviso. Soon thereafter, on the 4th of 
February, 1850, the House of Representatives at Washington, 
by a vote of 105 to T5, laid resolutions favoring this proviso 
upon the table.* The way was now opened for compromising 
all the existing questions in regard to slavery. 

The bold, eloquent, and patriotic Clay, who, thirty years be- 
fore, had contributed so much to the passage of the Mis- 

* Con. Globe, 1849-'50, p. 276. 

22 me. Buchanan's administration 

souri Compromise, was designated by the voice of the country 
as the leader in effecting this new Compromise. He did not, 
in his old age, shrink from the task. In this he was power- 
fully aided by several of our wisest and most conservative 

The necessary legislation for this purpose was accomplished 
in September, 1850, by the passage of five distinct acts of Con- 
gress. These were : 1. u An Act to amend and supplementary 
to " the old Fugitive Slave Law of the 12th of February, 1Y93.* 
This provided for the appointment of as many Commissioners 
by the Courts of the United States as the public convenience 
might require to supply the place of the State magistrates who 
had, as heretofore explained, been forbidden to carry into effect 
the mandate of the Constitution for the restoration of fugi- 
tive slaves. The chief object was to make the Federal Gov- 
ernment independent of State assistance in the execution of the 

2. An Act for the admission of California, as a free State, 
into the Union, embracing its entire territory, as well that south 
as north of the Missouri Compromise line.f 

3 and 4. Acts for establishing Territorial Governments in 
New Mexico and Utah, under which both these Territories were 
to be admitted as States into the Union, "with or without 
slavery as their respective Constitutions might provide." % From 
abundant but wise caution, the first of these Acts declared, in 
conformity with the Constitution, that " no citizen of the United 
States shall be deprived of his life, liberty, or property in said 
Territory, except by the judgment of his peers and the laws of 
the land." These two Acts, in addition to the old Missouri 
Compromise, embraced all our remaining Territories, whether 
derived from Mexico or France. They terminated the agitation 
on the Wilmot Proviso, by depriving it of any territory on 
which it could operate. 

The Act establishing the Territory of ISTew Mexico pro- 
vided also for annexing to it all that portion of Texas lying 

* 9 U. S. Laws, 462, Sept. 18. t Ibid., 452, Sept. 9. 

X Ibid. 446 and 453, Sept. 9. 


north of 36° 30' ; thus withdrawing it from the jurisdiction of a 
slave State. 

5. An Act was passed to abolish the domestic slave trade 
within the District of Columbia.* 

These five Acts constituted the famous Compromise of Sep- 
tember, 1850. At the first, this Compromise was condemned 
both by extreme abolitionists at the North and by extreme se- 
cessionists in the South. By the abolitionists, because it tol- 
erated slavery in New Mexico, and provided for the due ex- 
ecution of the Fugitive Slave Law ; and by the secessionists, 
because it admitted the great State of California as a free State 
into the Union, and this notwithstanding a considerable part of 
it lies south of the Missouri line. Nevertheless, it gradually 
made its way to public favor, and was hailed by the conservative 
masses, both North and South, as a wise and judicious arrange- 
ment. So far had it enlisted the general approval, that in June, 
1852, the National Conventions of both the Democratic and 
"Whig parties bestowed upon it their approbation, and expressed 
their determination to maintain it. They both resolved, to em- 
ploy the language of the Democratic platform, that they would 
66 resist all attempts at renewing, in Congress or out of it, the 
slavery agitation, under whatever shape or color the attempt 
may be made."t 

On this subject the Whig platform is specific and emphatic. 
Its eighth and last resolution is as follows: J 

" That the series of Acts of the thirty-second Congress, the 
Act known as the Fugitive Slave Law included, are received 
and acquiesced in by the "Whig party of the United States as a 
settlement in principle and substance of the dangerous and ex- 
citing questions which they embrace ; and, so far as they are con- 
cerned, we will maintain them and insist upon their strict en- 
forcement, until time and experience shall demonstrate the ne- 
cessity of further legislation to guard against the evasion of the 
laws on the one hand, and the abuse of their powers on the other 
— not impairing their present efficiency ; and we deprecate all 
further agitation of the question thus settled, as dangerous to 

* 9 U. S. Laws, 467, Sept. 20. + Greeley's Political Text Book, I860, p. 20. 

% Ibid. p. 19. 

24 me. Buchanan's administration 

our peace, and will discountenance all efforts to continue or re- 
new such agitation, whenever, wherever, or however the attempt 
may be made ; and we will maintain the system as essential to 
the nationality of the Whig party and the integrity of the 

When Congress assembled, after the election of President 
Pierce, on the first Monday of December, 1853, although the 
abolition fanatics had not ceased to agitate, crimination and re- 
crimination between the sectional parties had greatly subsided, 
and a comparative political calm everywhere prevailed. Pres- 
ident Pierce, in his annual message, felicitously referred to the 
" sense of repose and security to the public mind throughout the 
Confederacy," and pledged himself " that this repose should suf- 
fer no shock during his official term," if he had the power to 
avert it. 

The Compromise of 1850 ought never to have been disturbed 
by Congress. After long years of agitation and alarm, the coun- 
try, under its influence, had enjoyed a season of comparative re- 
pose, inspiring the people with bright hopes for the future. 

But how short-lived and delusive was this calm ! The very 
Congress which had commenced so auspiciously, by repealing 
the Missouri Compromise before the end of its first session, re- 
opened the floodgates of sectional strife, which, it was fondly 
imagined, had been closed forever. This has ever since gone on 
increasing in violence and malignity, until it has involved the 
country in the greatest and most sanguinary civil war recorded in 

And here it is necessary, for a correct understanding of the 
subject, to refer to the origin, the nature, and the repeal of this 
celebrated Compromise. 

It was passed on the 6th of March, 1820, after a long and 
violent struggle in Congress between the friends and the oppo- 
nents of what was then called the Missouri restriction.* This 
proposed to require from Missouri, as a condition precedent to 
her admission as a State, that she should " ordain and establish 
that there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude " 
therein, except as a punishment for crime. ■ 

3 U. S. Laws, 545. 


Under the Compromise as finally effected, whilst the restric- 
tionists were obliged to submit to the existence of slavery in 
Missouri, they obtained, on their part, a guarantee for perpetual 
freedom throughout the vast remaining territory north of the 
parallel of 36° 30', which had been acquired from France under 
the Louisiana Treaty.* These were the equivalents reciprocally 
granted and accepted by the opposing parties. 

This guarantee is to be found in the 8th section of the Act 
authorizing the people of the then Missouri Territory to form a 
Constitution and State Government, preparatory to admission as 
a State into the Union. f It is embraced in the following lan- 
guage: "That in all that territory ceded by France to the' 
United States, under the name of Louisiana, which lies north of 
36° 30' north latitude, not included within the limits of the 
State [Missouri] contemplated by this Act, slavery and involun- 
tary servitude, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes, 
whereof the parties shall have been duly convicted, shall be, and 
is hereby, forever prohibited. Provided always : That any per- 
son escaping into the same, from whom labor or service is law- 
fully claimed in any State or Territory of the United States, 
such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the 
person claiming his or her labor or service as aforesaid." 

The Missouri Compromise finally passed Congress by large 
majorities. On a test question in the Senate on the 2d March, 
1820, the vote in its favor was 27 against 15 ; and in the House, 
on the same day, it was 134 against 42. Its wisdom and policy 
were recognized by Congress, a quarter of a century afterwards, 
in March, 1845, when Texas, being a slave State, was annexed 
to the Union. Acting on the presumption that several new 
States might be formed out of her territory, one of the express 
conditions of her annexation was, that in such of these States as 
might lie north of the Missouri Compromise line, slavery shall be 

The Missouri Compromise had remained inviolate for more 
than thirty-four years before its repeal. It was a covenant of 
peace between the free and the slaveholding States. Its authors 

* For its history, vide Appendix to Con. Globe, 1st session 33d Congress, p. 226. 
+ 3 U. S. Laws, 545. % 5 U. S. Laws, 797. 

26 me. Buchanan's administration 

were the wise and conservative statesmen of a former generation. 
Although it had not silenced anti-slavery discussion in other 
forms, yet it soon tranquillized the excitement which for some 
months previous to its passage had convulsed the country in re- 
gard to slavery in the Territories. It is true that the power of a 
future Congress to repeal any of the Acts of its predecessors, un- 
der which no private rights had been vested, cannot be denied ; 
still the Missouri Compromise, being in the nature of a solemn 
compact between conflicting parties, whose object was to ward 
off great dangers from the Union, ought never to have been 
repealed by Congress. 

The question of its constitutionality ought to have been left 
to the decision of the Supreme Court, without any legislative 
intervention. Had this been done, and the Court had decided it 
to be a violation of the Constitution, in a case arising before 
them in the regular course of judicial proceedings, the decision 
would have passed off in comparative silence, and produced no 
dangerous excitement among the people. 

Let us briefly sketch the history of this repeal, which was the 
immediate cause of our present troubles. 

Senator Douglas, on the 4th January, 1854, reported a bill 
from the Committee on Territories, to establish a Territorial 
Government in Nebraska."* This bill was silent in regard to the 
Missouri Compromise. It was nearly in the usual form, and 
would have doubtless passed, with but little, if any, opposition. 
Before it was reached in order, the "Whig Senator Dixon, of 
Kentucky, on the 16th January, gave notice that when it should 
come before the Senate, he would move to add to it a section 
repealing the Missouri Compromise, not only in regard to Ne- 
braska, but all other Territories of the United States. f A few 
days thereafter, on the 23d January, the Committee on Terri- 
tories, through Mr. Douglas, their chairman, offered a substitute 
for the original bill. £ This, after dividing Nebraska into two 
Territories, the one still bearing that name, and the other the 
name of Kansas, proceeded to annul the Missouri Compromise 
in regard to these and all our other Territories. With this 

* Con. Globe, 1853-' 4, p. 115. t Ibid, p. 175. t Ibid v. 222. 


Mr. Dixon expressed himself " perfectly satisfied." * Such is 
the origin of what has since been familiarly called " the Kansas 
and Nebraska Bill." 

On the question of repeal, a long and angry debate arose in 
both Houses of Congress. This consumed a large portion of the 
session, and exasperated the contending parties to a degree never 
before witnessed. The opponents of the bill openly and vio- 
lently predicted imminent danger to the peace of the Union 
from its passage, whilst its advocates treated any such danger 
with proud and indignant disdain. 

The bill finally passed both Houses on the 25th, and was 
approved by President Pierce on the 30th May, 1854. 

It was ominous of evil that every Southern Senator present, 
whether Whig or Democrat, without regard to past political 
distinctions, voted for the repeal, with the exception of Mr. Bell, 
of Tennessee, and Mr. Clayton, of Delaware, who voted against 
it; and that every Northern Democratic Senator present, 
uniting with the South, also voted for the repeal, with the excep- 
tion of Messrs. Allen and James, of Rhode Island, and Mr. 
"Walker, of Wisconsin, who voted against it.f 

The repeal was accomplished in the following manner : The 
14th section of this bill, whilst extending the laws of the United 
States over Kansas and Nebraska, excepts therefrom " the 8th 
section of the Act preparatory to the admission of Missouri into 
the Union, approved March sixth, eighteen hundred and twenty, 
which, being inconsistent with the principle of non-intervention 
by Congress with slavery in the States and Territories, as recog- 
nized by the legislation of 1850, commonly called the Compro- 
mise measures, is hereby declared inoperative and void ; it being 
the true intent and meaning of this Act not to legislate slavery 
into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to 
leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their 
domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Con- 
stitution of the United States." 

It is impossible to conceive how it could be inferred that the 
Compromise of 1850, on the question of slavery in the territories, 
would be inconsistent with the long previous Missouri Compromise 

* P. 239. t Con. Globe, 1853-'4, p. 1321. 

28 me. Buchanan's administration 

of 1820 ; because each applied to distinct and separate portions 
of our territorial domain. Whilst the Missouri Compromise was 
confined to the territory acquired from France under the 
Louisiana purchase, that of 1850 provided only for the new ter- 
ritory long afterwards acquired from Mexico under the treaty of 
Guadalupe Hidalgo. The Compromise measures of 1850 contain 
no words to repeal or invalidate the Missouri Compromise. On 
the contrary, they expressly recognize it, as we have already 
seen, in the Act providing for the cession of a portion of Texas to 
New Mexico. 

After a careful review of the history of the anti-slavery party, 
from its origin, the candid inquirer must admit that up till this 
period it had acted on the aggressive against the South. From 
the beginning it had kept the citizens of the slaveholding States 
in constant irritation, as well as serious apprehension for their 
domestic peace and security. They were the assailed party, and 
had been far more sinned against than sinning. It is true, they 
had denounced their assailants with extreme rancor and many 
threats ; but had done nothing more. In sustaining the repeal 
of the Missouri Compromise, however, the Senators and Repre- 
sentatives of the Southern States became the aggressors them- 
selves, and thereby placed the country in an alarming and dan- 
gerous condition from which it has never since been rescued. 

The repeal of the Missouri Compromise having entirely re- 
moved the interdict against slavery in all our territories north of 
36° 30', the struggle immediately commenced in Kansas between 
the anti-slavery and pro-slavery parties. On this theatre the 
extreme men of both sections were brought into mortal conflict. 
Each party hurried emigrants to the Territory ; — the one intent 
upon making it a free, the other, though in violation of the laws 
of climate, upon making it a slave State. The one strenuously 
contended that slavery, under the Constitution, was local in its 
character and confined to the States where it existed ; and, 
therefore, if an emigrant passed into the Territory with his 
slaves, these became instantly free. The other maintained, with 
equal zeal, that slaves were recognized as property by the Con- 
stitution, and consequently their masters had a right to take 
them to Kansas and hold them there, under its guarantees, like 


any other property. Besides, the South insisted that without 
this right the equality of the States within their common ter- 
ritory was destroyed, and they would be degraded from the rank 
of equals to that of inferiors. 

It was not long until a fierce and vindictive war arose in 
Kansas between the opposing parties. In this, scenes of blood- 
shed and rapine were enacted by both parties, disgraceful to the 
American character. It is not our purpose to recapitulate these 
sad events. 

Whilst the pro-slavery party in the Territory sustained the 
Government in all its branches which had been established over 


it by Congress, the anti-slavery party repudiated it. They 
contended that frauds and violence had been committed in the 
election of members to the Territorial Legislature sufficient to 
render its enactments a nullity. For this reason they had held 
a Convention at Topeka, had framed a State Constitution, had 
elected their own Governor and Legislature to take the place 
of those in the actual administration of the Territorial Govern- 
ment, and had applied to Congress for admission into the Union. 

Such were the first bitter fruits of repealing the Missouri in- 
terdict against slavery north of 36° 30', and thus opening the 
Territory of Kansas to the admission of slaves. 

It cannot be doubted that frauds and violence had been com- 
mitted in this election ; but whether sufficient to render it a 
nullity was a question for Congress to decide. After a long and 
violent struggle, Congress had decided this question by finally 
rejecting the application for the admission of Kansas as a State 
into the Union under the Topeka Constitution, and by recog- 
nizing the authority of the Territorial Government. 

Such was the condition of Kansas when Mr. Buchanan 
entered upon the duties of the Presidential office. All these 
proceedings had taken place during the session of Congress 
(1856- 7) which terminated immediately before his inauguration. 
It will be admitted that he possessed no power to go behind the 
action of Congress and adjudge it to be null and void. In fact, 
he had no alternative but to sustain the Territorial Government. 

A new era was now commencing with the accession of Presi- 
dent Buchanan, and he indulged the hope that the anti-slavery 

30 me. Buchanan's administbatton 

party would abandon their hostility to the Territorial Gov- 
ernment and obey the laws. In this he was encouraged by the 
fact, that the Supreme Court had just decided that slavery 
existed in Kansas under the Constitution of the United States, 
and consequently the people of that Territory could only relieve 
themselves from it by electing anti-slavery delegates to the 
approaching Lecompton Convention, in sufficient number to 
frame a free State Constitution preparatory to admission into the 
Union. They could no longer expect ever to be admitted as a 
State under the Topeka Constitution. The thirty-fourth Con- 
gress had just expired, having recognized the legal existence of 
the Territorial Legislature in a variety of forms which need not 
be enumerated.* The Delegate elected under a Territorial law 
to the House of Representatives had been admitted to his seat, 
and had completed his term of service on the day previous to 
Mr. Buchanan's inauguration. 

In this reasonable hope the President Was destined to disap- 
pointment. The anti-slavery party, during a period of ten 
months, from the 4th of March, 1857, until the first Monday of 
January, 1858, continued to defy the Territorial Government 
and to cling to their Topeka organization. The first symptom 
of yielding was not until the latter day, when a large portion 
of them voted for State officials and a member of Congress un- 
der the Lecompton Constitution. Meanwhile, although actual 
war was suspended between the parties, yet the peace was only 
maintained by the agency of United States troops. " The op- 
posing parties still stood in hostile array against each other, 
and any accident might have relighted the flames of civil war. 
Besides, at this critical moment, Kansas was left without a Gov- 
ernor, by the resignation of Governor Geary."| 

Soon after the inauguration an occasion offered to Mr. 
Buchanan to define the policy he intended to pursue in relation 
to Kansas. This was in answer to a memorial presented to him 
by forty-three distinguished citizens of Connecticut, a number 
of them being eminent divines. The following we extract from 
his letter dated at Washington, August 15, 1857 : 

* Message to Congress transmitting the Constitution of Kansas. 
+ Message of December, 1857, p. 18. 


" When I entered upon the duties of the Presidential office, 
on the fourth of March last, what was the condition of Kansas ? 
This Territory had been organized under the Act of Congress 
of 30th May, 1854, and the government in all its branches was 
in full operation. A governor, secretary of the Territory, chief 
justice, two associate justices, a marshal, and district attorney 
had been appointed by my predecessor, by and with the advice 
and consent of the Senate, and were all engaged in discharging 
their respective duties. A code of laws had been enacted by 
the Territorial Legislature ; and the judiciary were employed in 
expounding and carrying these laws into effect. It is quite true 
that a controversy had previously arisen respecting the validity 
of the election of members of the Territorial Legislature and of 
the laws passed by them ; but at the time I entered upon my 
official duties Congress had recognized this Legislature in differ- 
ent forms and by different enactments. The delegate elected 
to the House of Representatives, under a Territorial law, had 
just completed his term of service on the day previous to my 
inauguration. In fact, I found the government of Kansas as 
well established as that of any other Territory. Under these 
circumstances, what was my duty ? Was it not to sustain this 
government ? to protect it from the violence of lawless men, who 
were determined either to rule or ruin ? to prevent it from being 
overturned by force? in the language of the Constitution, to 
Hake care that the laws be faithfully executed'? It was for 
this purpose, and this alone, that I ordered a military force to 
Kansas to act as a posse comitatus in aiding the civil magistrate 
to carry the laws into execution. The condition of the Territory 
at the time, which I need not portray, rendered this precaution 
absolutely necessary. In this state of affairs, would I not have 
been justly condemned had I left the marshal and other officers 
of a like character impotent to execute the process and judgments 
of courts of justice established by Congress, or by the Territorial 
Legislature under its express authority, and thus have suffered 
the government itself to become an object of contempt in the 
eyes of the people? And yet this is what you designate as 
forcing l the people of Kansas to obey laws not their own, nor 
of the United States ; ? and for doing which you have denounced 

32 me. Buchanan's administration 

me as having violated my solemn oath. I ask, what else could 
I have done, or ought I to have done % Would you have desired 
that I should abandon the Territorial government, sanctioned as 
it had been by Congress, to illegal violence, and thus renew the 
scenes of civil war and bloodshed which every patriot in the 
country had deplored % This would, indeed, have been to vio- 
late my oath of office, and to fix a damning blot on the charac- 
ter of my administration. 

" I most cheerfully admit that the necessity for sending a mil- 
itary force to Kansas to aid in the execution of the civil law, 
reflects no credit upon the character of our country. But let 
the blame fall upon the heads of the guilty. Whence did this 
necessity arise ? A portion of the people of Kansas, unwilling 
to trust to the ballot-box — the certain American remedy for 
the redress of all grievances — undertook to create an indepen- 
dent government for themselves. Had this attempt proved suc- 
cessful, it would of course have subverted the existing govern- 
ment, prescribed and recognized by Congress, and substituted a 
revolutionary government in its stead. This was a usurpation 
of the same character as it would be for a portion of the people 
of Connecticut to undertake to establish a separate government 
within its chartered limits for the purpose of redressing any 
grievance, real or imaginary, of which they might have com- 
plained against the legitimate State government. Such a prin- 
ciple, if carried into execution, would destroy all lawful author- 
ity and produce universal anarchy." 

And again : " I thank you for the assurances that you will 
i not refrain from the prayer that Almighty God will make my 
administration an example of justice and beneficence.' You 
can greatly aid me in arriving at this blessed consummation, by 
exerting your influence in allaying the existing sectional excite- 
ment on the subject of slavery, which has been productive of 
much evil and no good, and which, if it could succeed in attain- 
ing its object, would ruin the slave as well as his master. This 
would be a work of genuine philanthropy. Every day of my 
life I feel how inadequate I am to perform the duties of my 
high station without the continued support of Divine Prov- 
idence yet, placing my trust in Him and in Him alone, I enter- 


tain a good hope that He will enable me to do equal justice to 
all portions of the Union, and thus render me an humble instru- 
ment in restoring peace and harmony among the people of the 
several States." 

This answer, at the time, appeared to give general satisfac- 

Soon after the 4th of March, 1857, Mr. Eobert J. "Walker 
was appointed Governor, and Mr. Frederick P. Stanton Secre- 
tary of the Territory of Kansas. The great object in view was 
to prevail upon the Anti-Slavery party to unite with their oppo- 
nents in framing a State Constitution for Kansas, leaving the 
question to be decided at the ballot-box whether it should enter 
the Union as a free or as a slave State. Accordingly the Gov- 
ernor was instructed to take care that the election for delegates 
to the convention should be held and conducted with perfect 
fairness to both parties, so that the genuine voice of the people 
might be truly heard and obeyed. This duty he performed with 
fidelity and ability, but unfortunately without success. 

The laws which had been passed by the Territorial Legisla 
ture providing for this election are liable to no just exception. 
The President, speaking on this subject in his message of 2d of 
February, 1858, transmitting the Kansas Constitution to Con- 
gress, employs the following language : — " It is impossible that 
any people could have proceeded with more regularity in the 
formation of a constitution than the people of Kansas have done. 
It was necessary, first, to ascertain whether it was the desire of 
the people to be relieved from their territorial dependence and 
establish a State government. For this purpose the Territorial 
Legislature, in 1855, passed a law i for taking the sense of the 
people of this Territory upon the expediency of calling a con- 
vention to form a State constitution ' at the general election to 
be held in October, 1856. The ' sense of the people ' was ac- 
cordingly taken, and they decided in favor of a convention. It 
is true that at this election the enemies of the territorial gov- 
ernment did not vote, because they were then engaged at Topeka, 
without the slightest pretext of lawful authority, in framing a 
constitution of their own for the purpose of subverting the ter- 
ritorial government. 

34: me. Buchanan's administration 

" In pursuance of this decision of the people in favor of a 
convention, the Territorial Legislature, on the 27th day of Feb- 
ruary, 1857, passed an act for the election of delegates on the 
third Monday of June, 1857, to frame a State constitution. 
This law is as fair in its provisions as any that ever passed a 
legislative body for a similar purpose. The right of suffrage at 
this election is clearly and justly denned. c Every bona fide in- 
habitant of the Territory of Kansas ' on the third Monday of 
June, the day of the election, who was a citizen of the United 
States, above the age of twenty-one, and had resided therein for 
three months previous to that date, was entitled to vote. In 
order to avoid all interference from neighboring States or Terri- 
tories with the freedom and fairness of the election, provision 
was made for the registry of the qualified voters ; and in pur- 
suance thereof nine thousand two hundred and fifty-one voters 
were registered." 

The great object was to convince these 9,251 qualified electors 
that they ought to vote in the choice of delegates to the conven- 
tion, and thus terminate the controversy by the will of the 

The Governor urged them to exercise their right of suffrage ; 
but in vain. In his Inaugural Address of the 27th of May, 1857, 
he informed them that, "Under our practice, the preliminary 
act of framing a State constitution is uniformly performed 
through the instrumentality of a convention of delegates chosen 
by the people themselves. That convention is now about to be 
elected by you under the call of the Territorial Legislature, 
created and still recognized by the authority of Congress, and 
clothed by it, in the comprehensive language of the organic law, 
with full power to make such an enactment. The Territorial 
Legislature, then, in assembling this convention, were fully sus- 
tained by the Act of Congress, and the authority of the conven- 
tion is distinctly recognized in my instructions from the Presi- 
dent of the United States." The Governor proceeded to warn 
them, clearly and distinctly, what would be the consequences, 
if they should not participate in the election. " The people of 
Kansas, then," he says, " are invited by the highest authority 
known to the Constitution, to participate, freely and fairly, in 


the election of delegates to frame a Constitution and State Gov- 
ernment. The law has performed its entire appropriate function 
when it extends to the people the right of suffrage, but cannot 
compel the performance of that duty. Throughout our whole 
Union, however, and wherever free government prevails, those 
who abstain from the exercise of the right of suffrage authorize 
those who do vote to act for them in that contingency; and the 
absentees are as much bound, under the law and Constitution, 
where there is no fraud or violence, by the act of the majority 
of those who do vote, as if all had participated in the election. 
Otherwise, as voting must be voluntary, self-government would 
be impracticable, and monarchy or despotism would remain as 
the only alternative." 

" This was the propitious moment," said the President, 
" for settling all difficulties in Kansas. This was the time for 
abandoning the revolutionary Topeka organization, and for the 
enemies of the existing government to conform to the laws, and 
to unite with its friends in framing a State Constitution. But 
this they refused to do, and the consequences of their refusal to 
submit to lawful authority and vote at the election of dele- 
gates may yet prove to be of a most deplorable character. 
Would that the respect for the laws of the land which so emi- 
nently distinguished the men of the past generation could be 
revived ! It is a disregard and violation of law which have for 
years kept the Territory of Kansas in a state of almost open re- 
bellion against its government. It is the same spirit which has 
produced actual rebellion in Utah. Our only safety consists in 
obedience and conformity to law. Should a general spirit 
against its enforcement prevail, this will prove fatal to us as a 
nation. We acknowledge no master but the law ; and should 
we cut loose from its restraints, and every one do what seemeth 
good in his own eyes, our case will indeed be hopeless. 

" The enemies of the territorial government determined still 
to resist the authority of Congress. They refused to vote for 
delegates to the convention, not because, from circumstances 
which I need not detail, there was an omission to register the 
comparatively few voters who were inhabitants of certain coun- 
ties of Kansas in the early spring of 1857, but because they had 

36 mr. Buchanan's administration 

predetermined, at all hazards, to adhere to their revolutionary 
organization, and defeat the establishment of any other consti- 
tution than that which they had framed at Topeka. The elec- 
tion was, therefore, suffered to pass by default ; but of this result 
the qualified electors who refused to vote can never justly com- 

A large majority, therefore, of Pro-Slavery delegates were 
elected members of the convention. 

" From this review, it is manifest that the Lecompton Con- 
vention, notwithstanding the refusal of the Anti-Slavery party to 
vote, was legally constituted and was invested with power to 
frame a constitution." 

It has been urged that these proceedings were in violation 
of the sacred principle of popular sovereignty. " But in what 
manner," said the President, "is popular sovereignty to be 
exercised in this country, if not through the instrumentality of 
established law? In certain small republics of ancient times 
the people did assemble in primary meetings, passed laws, and 
directed public affairs. In our country this is manifestly impos- 
sible. Popular sovereignty can be exercised here only through 
the ballot-box ; and if the people will refuse to exercise it in this 
manner, as they have done in Kansas at the election of dele- 
gates, it is not for them to complain that their rights have been 

Throughout the intervening period, and for some time there- 
after, Kansas was in a dreadful condition. To illustrate this, 
we shall transcribe several paragraphs from the President's 
Message.* He says, that " A great delusion seems to pervade 
the public mind in relation to the condition of parties in Kansas. 
This arises from the difficulty of inducing the American people 
to realize the fact that any portion of them should be in a state 
of rebellion against the Government under which they live. 
When we speak of the affairs of Kansas, we are apt to refer 
merely to the existence of two violent political parties in that 
Territory, divided > on the question of slavery, just as we speak 
of such parties in the States. This presents no adequate idea of 

* Page 1. 


the true state of the case. The dividing line there is not be- 
tween two political parties, both acknowledging the lawful ex- 
istence of the government, but between those who are loyal to 
this government, and those who ha^e endeavored to destroy its 
existence by force and by usurpation — between those who sustain 
and those who have done all in their power to overthrow the 
territorial government established by Congress. This govern- 
ment they would long since have subverted, had it not been 
protected from their assaults by the troops of the United States. 
Such has been the condition of affairs since my inauguration. 
Ever since that period a large portion of the people of Kansas 
have been in a state of rebellion against the government, with 
a military leader at their head of a most turbulent and danger- 
ous character. They have never acknowledged, but have con- 
stantly renounced and defied the government to which they owe 
allegiance, and have been all the time in a state of resistance 
against its authority. They have all the time been endeavoring 
to subvert it, and to establish a revolutionary government, under 
the so-called Topeka Constitution, in its stead. Even at this 
very moment the Topeka Legislature is in session. Whoever 
has read the correspondence of Governor Walker with the State 
Department, recently communicated to the Senate, will be con- 
vinced that this picture is not overdrawn. He always protested 
against the withdrawal of any portion of the military force of 
the United States from the Territory, deeming its presence 
absolutely necessary for the preservation of the regular govern- 
ment and the execution of the laws. In his very first despatch 
to the Secretary of State, dated June 2, 1857, he says: ' The 
most alarming movement, however, proceeds from the assem- 
bling on the 9th of June of the so-called Topeka Legislature, 
with a view to the enactment of an entire code' of laws. Of 
course it will be my endeavor to prevent such a result, as it 
would lead to inevitable and disastrous collision, and, in fact, 
renew the civil war in Kansas.' This was with difficulty pre- 
vented by the efforts of Governor Walker ; but soon thereafter, 
on the 14th of July, we find him requesting General Harney to 
furnish him a regiment of dragoons to proceed to the city of 
Lawrence, and this for the reason that he had received authentic 


intelligence, verified by his own actual observation, that a dan- 
gerous rebellion had occurred, ' involving an open defiance of 
the laws and the establishment of an insurgent government in 
that city.' , 

" In the Governor's despatch of July 15, he informs the 
Secretary of State ' that this movement at Lawrence was the 
beginning of a plan, originating in that city, to organize insur- 
rection throughout the Territory ; and especially in all towns, 
cities, or counties where the Republican party have a majority. 
Lawrence is the hot-bed of all the abolition movements in this 
Territory. It is the town established by the abolition societies of 
the east ; and whilst there are respectable people there, it is filled 
by a considerable number of mercenaries who are paid by abolition 
societies to perpetuate and diffuse agitation throughout Kansas, 
and prevent a peaceful settlement of this question. Having 
failed in inducing their own so-called Topeke State Legislature 
to organize this insurrection, Lawrence has commenced it her- 
self, and, if not arrested, the rebellion will extend throughout 
the Territory.' 

" And again : ' In order to send this communication imme- 
diately by mail, I must close by assuring you that the spirit of 
rebellion pervades the great mass of the Republican party of this 
Territory, instigated, as I entertain no doubt they are, by east- 
ern societies, having in view results most disastrous to the Gov- 
ernment and to the Union ; and that the continued presence 
of General Harney here is indispensable, as originally stipulated 
by me, with a large body of dragoons and several batteries.' 

" On the 20th July, 1857, General Lane, under the authority 
of the Topeka Convention, undertook, as Governor Walker in- 
forms us, ' to organize the whole so-called free State party into 
volunteers, and to take the names of all who refuse enrolment. 
The professed object is to protect the polls, at the election in 
August, of the new insurgent Topeka State Legislature. The 
object of taking the names of all who refuse enrolment is to ter- 
rify the free State conservatives into submission. This is proved 
by recent atrocities committed on such men byTopekaites. Tha 
speedy location of large bodies of regular troops here, with two 
batteries, is necessary. The Lawrence insurgents await the 


development of this new revolutionary military organization,' 
etc., etc. 

"In the Governor's despatch of July 27th, he says that 
1 General Lane and his staff everywhere deny the authority of 
the territorial laws, and counsel a total disregard of these enact- 

" Without making further quotations of a similar character 
from other despatches of Governor "Walker, it appears by a refer- 
ence to Mr. Stanton's communication to General Cass, of the 
9th of December last, that the ' important step of calling the 
[Territorial] Legislature together was taken after I [he] had be- 
come satisfied that the election ordered by the Convention on 
the 21st instant [December] could not be conducted without col- 
lision and bloodshed.' So intense was th"e disloyal feeling 
among the enemies of the government established by Congress, 
that an election which afforded them an opportunity, if in the 
majority, of making Kansas a free State, according to their own 
professed desire, could not be conducted without collision and 
bloodshed ! 

" The truth is, that, up till the present moment, the enemies 
of the existing government still adhere to their Topeka revolu- 
tionary constitution and government. The very first paragraph 
of the message of Governor Robinson, dated on the 7th of De- 
cember, to the Topeka Legislature, now assembled at Lawrence, 
contains an open defiance of the Constitution and laws of the 
United States. The Governor says : ' The Convention which 
framed the constitution at Topeka originated with the people 
of Kansas Territory. They have adopted and ratified the same 
twice by a direct vote, and also indirectly through two elections 
of State officers and members of the State Legislature. Yet it 
has pleased the administration to regard the whole proceeding 
as revolutionary.' 

" The Topeka government, adhered to with such treasonable 
pertinacity, is a government in direct opposition to the existing 
government prescribed and recognized by Congress. It is a 
usurpation of the same character as it would be for a portion of 
the people of any State of the Union to undertake to establish a 
separate government, within its limits, for the purpose of re- 

40 me. Buchanan's administration 

dressing any grievance, real or imaginary, of which they might 
complain against the legitimate State Government. Such a 
principle, if carried into execution, would destroy all lawful 
authority and produce universal anarchy. 

" From this statement of facts, the reason becomes palpable 
why the enemies of the government authorized by Congress 
have refused to vote for delegates to the Kansas Constitutional 
Convention, and, also, afterwards on the question of slavery 
submitted by it to the people. It is because they have ever re- 
fused to sanction or recognize any other constitution than that 
framed at Topeka." 

The Convention, thus lawfully constituted, met for the sec- 
ond time on the 4th of September, and proceeded to frame a 
constitution, and finally adjourned on the 7th day of Novem- 
ber, 1857.* A large majority of its members, in consequence 
of the refusal of the Anti-Slavery electors to vote for delegates , 
were in favor of establishing slavery. The Convention having 
refused to submit the whole constitution to the people, in oppo- 
sition to the desire of the President, determined finally to sub- 
mit to them only the all-important question whether slavery 
should or should not exist in the new State. This they were 
required to do under the true construction of the Kansas and 
Nebraska Act, and without this the constitution would have 
encountered his decided opposition. It was not, however, until 
the last moment, and this after an angry and excited debate, that 
the Convention, by a majority of only three, determined to sub- 
mit this question to a popular vote. Acting on the authority 
of former precedents, and considering that all other parts of 
the constitution had been finally adopted, they therefore sub; 
mitted the question of slavery alone to the people, at an election 
to be held on the 21st December, 1857. For this purpose they 
provided that, before the constitution adopted by the Convention 
" shall be sent to Congress asking for admission into the Union 
as a State," an election shall be held to decide this question, 
at which all the white male inhabitants of the Territory should 
be entitled to vote. They were to vote by ballot ; and " the bal- 

* Senate Documents, 1857-58, vol. vii., No. 21. 


lots cast at said election shall be indorsed ' Constitution with 
Slavery,' and ' Constitution with no Slavery.' " 

" Here, again," says the President, " a fair opportunity was 
presented to the adherents of the Topeka Constitution, if they 
were the majority, to decide this exciting question 6 in their own 
way,' and thus restore peace to the distracted Territory ; but they 
again refused to exercise their right of popular sovereignty, and 
again suffered the election to pass by default." In consequence, 
the result, according to the report of J. Calhoun, the President 
of the Convention, was 6,226 votes in favor of slavery, and but 
569 against it. 

The constitution thus adopted had provided for holding an 
election on the first Monday of January, 1858, for " a Governor, 
Lieutenant-Governor, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, and 
members of the Legislature, and also a member of Congress." 
The election was peaceably conducted under the instructions 
of the President. A better spirit now prevailed among the op- 
ponents of the Lecompton Constitution, and they no longer re- 
frained from voting. A large majority of them, by a strange 
but happy inconsistency, recognized its existence by voting un- 
der its provisions.* 

This election was warmly contested by the two political 
parties in Kansas, and a greater vote was polled than at any 
previous election. A large majority of the members of the 
Legislature elect belonged to that party which had previously 
refused to vote. The Anti-Slavery party were thus placed in 
the ascendant, and the political power of the State was in their 

The President hailed this evidence of returning reason as an 
auspicious event. It had been his constant effort from the begin- 
ning to induce the Anti-Slavery party to vote. Now that this 
had been accomplished, he knew that all revolutionary troubles 
in Kansas would speedily terminate. A resort to the ballot 
box, instead of force, was the most effectual means of restoring 
peace and tranquillity. 

It was after all these events had transpired, that the Presi- 

* Message Dec. 6, 1858. 

42 mr. Buchanan's administration 

dent, on the 30th January, 1858, received the Lecompton Con- 
stitution, with a request from the President of the Convention 
that it might be submitted to the consideration of Congress. 
This was done by the message of the 2d February, 1858, from 
which we have already made several extracts. In this the 
President recommended the admission of Kansas as a State under 
the Lecompton Constitution. He says : " The people of Kansas 
have, then, ' in their own way,' and in strict accordance with the 
organic act, framed a constitution and State Government ; have 
submitted the all-important question of slavery to the people, 
and have elected a governor, a member to represent them in 
Congress, members of the State Legislature, and other State 
officers. They now ask admission into the Union under this 
constitution, which is republican in its form. It is for Congress 
to decide whether they will admit or reject the State which has 
thus been created. For my own part, I am decidedly in favor 
of its admission, and thus terminating the Kansas question. 
This will carry out the great principle of non-intervention recog- 
nized and sanctioned by the organic act, which declares in ex- 
press language in favor of ' non-intervention by Congress with 
slavery in the States or Territories,' leaving ' the people thereof 
perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions 
in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United 
States.' In this manner, by localizing the question of slavery 
and confining it to the people whom it immediately concerned, 
every patriot anxiously expected that this question would be 
banished from the halls of Congress, where it has always ex- 
erted a baneful influence throughout the whole country." 

" If Congress, for the sake of those men who refused to vote 
for delegates to the convention when they might have excluded 
slavery from the constitution, and who afterwards refused to 
vote on the 21st December last, when they might, as they claim, 
have stricken slavery from the constitution, should now reject 
the State because slavery remains in the constitution, it is man- 
ifest that the agitation on this dangerous subject will be renewed 
in a more alarming form than it has ever yet assumed." 

" As a question of expediency, after the right [of admission] 
has been maintained, it may be wise to reflect upon the benefits 


to Kansas and to the whole country which would result from its 
immediate admission into the Union, as well as the disasters 
which may follow its rejection. Domestic peace will be the 
happy consequence of its admission, and that fine Territory, 
which has hitherto been torn by dissensions, will rapidly in- 
crease in population and wealth, and speedily realize the bless- 
ings and. the comforts which follow in the train of agricultural 
and mechanical industry. The people will then be sovereign, 
and can regulate their own affairs in their own way. If a ma- 
jority of them desire to abolish domestic slavery within the State, 
there is no other possible mode by which this can be effected so 
speedily as by prompt admission. The will of the majority is 
supreme and irresistible when expressed in an orderly and law- 
ful manner. They can make and unmake constitutions at 
pleasure. It would be absurd to say that they can impose 
fetters upon their own power which they cannot afterwards 
remove. If they could do this, they might tie their own hands 
for a hundred as well as for ten years. These are fundamental 
principles of American freedom, and are recognized, I believe,. 
in some form or other, by every State constitution ; and if Con- 
gress, in the act of admission, should think proper to recognize 
them, I can perceive no objection to such a course. This has 
been done emphatically in the constitution of Kansas. It de- 
clares in the bill of rights that ' all political power is inherent 
in the people, and all free governments are founded on their au- 
thority and instituted for their benefit, and therefore they have 
at all times an inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform, 
or abolish their form of government in such manner as they 
may think proper.' The great State of JS"ew York is at this 
moment governed under a constitution framed and established in 
direct opposition to the mode prescribed by the previous consti- 
tution. If, therefore, the provision changing the Kansas consti- 
tution after the year one thousand eight hundred and sixty-four, 
could by possibility be construed into a prohibition to make 
such a change previous to that period, this prohibition would 
be wholly unavailing. The Legislature already elected may, at 
its very first session, submit the question to a vote of the people 
whether they will or will not have a convention to amend their 

44 mr. Buchanan's administration 

constitution, and adopt all necessary means for giving effect to 
the popular will." 

" Every patriot in the country had indulged the hope that 
the Kansas and Nebraska Act would put a final end to the 
slavery agitation, at least in Congress, which had for more than 
twenty years convulsed the country and endangered the Union. 
This act involved great and fundamental principles, and if 
fairly carried into effect will settle the question. Should the 
agitation be again revived, should the people of the sister States 
be again estranged from each other with more than their former 
bitterness, this will arise from a cause, so far as the interests of 
Kansas are concerned, more trifling and insignificant than has 
ever stirred the elements of a great people into commotion. To 
the people of Kansas, the only practical difference between ad- 
mission or rejection depends simply upon the fact whether they 
can themselves more speedily change the present constitution if 
it does not accord with the will of the majority, or frame a sec- 
ond constitution to be submitted to Congress hereafter. Even 
.if this were a question of mere expediency, and not of right, the 
small difference of time, one way or the other, is of not the least 
importance, when contrasted with the evils which must neces- 
sarily result to the whole country from a revival of the slavery 

" In considering this question, it should never be forgotten 
that, in proportion to its insignificance, let the decision be what 
it may, so far as it may affect the few thousand inhabitants of 
Kansas who have from the beginning resisted the constitution 
and the laws, for this very reason the rejection of the constitu- 
tion will be so much the more keenly felt by the people of four- 
teen of the States of this Union, where slavery is recognized 
under the Constitution of the United States. 

" Again : The • speedy admission of Kansas into the Union 
would restore peace and quiet to the whole country. Already 
the affairs of this Territory have engrossed an undue proportion 
of public attention. They have sadly affected the friendly rela- 
tions of the people of the States with each other, and alarmed 
the fears of patriots for the safety of the Union. Kansas once 
admitted into the Union, the excitement becomes localized, and 


will soon die away for want of outside aliment. Then every 
difficulty will be settled at the ballot box." 

" I have thus performed my duty on this important question, 
under a deep sense of responsibility to God and my country. My 
public life will terminate within a brief period ; and I have no 
other object of earthly ambition than to leave my country in 
a peaceful and prosperous condition, and to live in the affections 
and respect of my countrymen. The dark and ominous clouds 
which now appear to be impending over the Union, I conscien- 
tiously believe may be dissipated with honor to every portion of 
it by the admission of Kansas during the present session of Con- 
gress; whereas, if she should be rejected, I greatly fear these 
clouds will become darker and more ominous than any which 
have ever yet threatened the Constitution and the Union." 

This Message gave rise to a long, exciting, and occasionally 
violent debate in both Houses of Congress, between the Anti- 
Slavery members and their opponents, which lasted for nearly 
three months. In the course of it slavery was denounced in 
every form which could exasperate the Southern people and 
render it odious to the people of the North ; whilst, on the other 
hand, many of the speeches of Southern members displayed 
characteristic violence. Thus two sessions of Congress in suc- 
cession had been in a great degree occupied with the same in- 
flammatory topics, in discussing the affairs of Kansas. 

The debate was finally concluded by the passage of the 
" Act for the admission of the State of Kansas into the Union," 
of the 4th May, 1858.* This act, which had been reported by 
a Committee of Conference of both Houses, was passed in the 
Senate by a vote of 31 to 22, and in the House by a vote of 112 
to 103.f This was strictly a party vote in both Houses, with 
the exception of Mr. Douglas, in the Senate, who voted with the 
minority, and a few so-called Anti-Lecompton Democrats who 
voted with the minority in the House. This act explicitly 
recognizes the validity of the proceedings in Kansas which had 
given birth to the Lecompton Constitution. The preamble re- 
cites that — % 

* 11 U. S. Laws, p. 269. 

t Con. Globe, 1857-8, pp. 1899 and 1905. 

46 me. Buchanan's administration 

u Whereas, The people of the Territory of Kansas did, by 
a Convention of Delegates assembled at Lecompton, on the 
seventh day of November, one thousand eight hundred and 
fifty-seven, for that purpose, form for themselves a Constitution 
and State Government, which Constitution is republican," etc. ; 
and it then proceeds to enact, " That the State of Kansas be, 
and is hereby, admitted into the Union on an equal footing with 
the original States in all respects whatever, but upon this fun- 
damental condition precedent," etc. 

The necessity for this condition precedent arose from the fact 
that the ordinance of the Convention accompanying the consti- 
tution, claimed for the State a cession of the public lands 
more than six times the quantity which had been granted to 
other States when entering the Union.* The estimated amount 
was more than twenty-three million five hundred thousand 
acres. To such an exaction Congress could not yield. In lieu 
of this ordinance, therefore, they proposed to submit to a vote 
of the people of Kansas a proposition reducing the number of 
acres to be ceded, to that which had been granted to other 
States. Should this proposition be accepted by the people, 
then the fact was to be announced by the proclamation of the 
President ; and " thereafter, and without any further proceedings 
on the part of Congress, the admission of the State of Kansas 
into the Union, upon an equal footing with the original States in 
all respects whatever, shall be complete and absolute." 

Such was the condition precedent, which was never fulfilled, 
because the people by their votes on the 2d of August, 1858, 
rejected the proposition of Congress, and therefore Kansas was 
not admitted into the Union under the Lecompton Constitution. 
Notwithstanding this, the recognition by Congress of the regu- 
larity of the proceedings in forming the Lecompton Constitution 
did much good, at least for a season. It diverted the attention 
of the people from fighting to voting, a most salutary change. 
The President, in referring to this subject in his next annual 
Message of December 6, 1858, uses the following language : 
" When we compare the condition of the country at the present 

* Con. Globe, 1857-'8, p. 1766. 


day with what it was one year ago, at the meeting of Congress, 
we have much reason for gratitude to that Almighty Providence 
which has never failed to interpose for our relief at the most 
critical periods of our history. One year ago the sectional strife 
between the North and the South on the dangerous subject of 
slavery had again become so intense as to threaten the peace 
and perpetuity of the confederacy. The application for the ad- 
mission of Kansas as a State into the Union fostered this un- 
happy agitation, and brought the whole subject once more before 
Congress. It was the desire of every patriot that such measures 
of legislation might be adopted as would remove the excitement 
from the States and confine it to the Territory where it legiti- 
mately belonged. Much has been done, I am happy to say, to- 
wards the accomplishment of this object during the last session 
of Congress. 

" The Supreme Court of the United States had previously de- 
cided that all American citizens have an equal right to take into 
the Territories whatever is held as property under the laws of 
any of the States, and to hold such property there under the 
guardianship of the Federal Constitution, so long as the territo- 
rial condition shall remain. This is now a well-established posi- 
tion, and the proceedings of the last session were alone wanting 
to give it practical effect. 

" The principle has been recognized, in some form or other, by 
an almost unanimous vote of both Houses of Congress, that a 
Territory has a right to come into the Union either as a free or 
a slave State, according to the will of a majority of its people. 
The just equality of all the States has thus been vindicated, and 
a fruitful source of dangerous dissension among them has been 

" While such has been the beneficial tendency of your legisla- 
tive proceedings outside of Kansas, their influence has nowhere 
been so happy as within that Territory itself. Left to manage 
and control its own affairs in its own way, without the pressure 
of external influence, the revolutionary Topeka organization, 
and all resistance to the territorial government established by 
Congress, have been finally abandoned. As a natural conse- 
quence, that fine Territory now appears to be tranquil and pros- 

48 mr. Buchanan's administration 

perous, and is attracting increasing thousands of immigrants to 
make it their happy home. 

" The past unfortunate experience of Kansas has enforced the 
lesson, so often already taught, that resistance to lawful author- 
ity, under our form of government, cannot fail in the end to 
prove disastrous to its authors." 

It is unnecessary to pursue this subject further than to state 
that Kansas was finally admitted into the Union on the 29th 
January, 1861. 

The series of events already enumerated had greatly 
strengthened and extended the Anti-Slavery party. It soon 
drew within its vortex all other political organizations in the free 
States, except that of the old Democratic party, and consoli- 
dated them under the name of the Republican party. This 
thenceforward became purely sectional, and was confined to 
the States north of Mason and Dixon's line. 

The Kansas and Nebraska Act had referred all constitutional 
questions respecting slavery in the Territories, to the Supreme 
Court of the United States. It accordingly furnished the neces- 
sary facilities for bringing cases " involving title to slaves," or 
the " question of personal freedom," before that tribunal. 

At the period of Mr. Buchanan's inauguration a case was 
pending before that Court (Dred Scott v. Sandford, 19 Howard's 
Reports, p. 393) involving all the contested questions in regard 
to slavery. This, at the time, presented to him a cheerful but 
delusive prospect. He confidently expected that the decision 
of the Court would settle all these questions and eventually re- 
store harmony among the States. Accordingly, in his Inau- 
gural Address, he had declared that to this decision, whatever it 
might be, he should, in common with all good citizens, cheer- 
fully submit. This was his imperative duty. Our free form of 
government must soon be destroyed, should the Executive set 
up his judgment against that of the coordinate judicial branch, 
on a question clearly within its constitutional jurisdiction. 

Two days after the inauguration, on the 6th March, 1857, 
the Supreme Court pronounced its judgment. This was deliv- 
ered b$ Chief Justice Taney, and embraced all the points in con- 
trovert f. It establishes the following propositions : 


1. Congress has power to acquire territory, "to be held by 
the United States until it is in a suitable condition to become a 
State upon an equal footing with the other States." 

2. This territory is " acquired by the General Government, 
as the representative and trustee of the people of the United 
States, and it must therefore be held in that character for their 
common and equal benefit ; for it was the people of the several 
States, acting through their agent and representative, the Fed- 
eral Government, who in fact acquired the territory in question, 
and the Government holds it for their common use, until it shall 
be associated with the other States as a member of the con- 

3. Until that time should arrive, it was the duty of Congress 
to establish a government over the Territory, "best suited 
for the protection and security of the citizens of the United 
States, and other inhabitants who might be authorized to take 
up their abode there." 

4. But "the territory being a part of the United States, 
the Government and the citizen both enter it under the authority 
of the Constitution, with their respective rights defined and 
marked out ; and the Federal Government can exercise no power 
over his person or property beyond what that instrument con- 
fers, nor lawfully deny any right which it has reserved." 

5. The Federal Government possesses no power to violate 
the rights of property within such Territory, because these " are 
united with the rights of persons, and placed on the same ground 
by the fifth amendment to the Constitution, which provides that 
no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without 
due process of law." " And the powers over persons and property 
of which we speak, are not only not granted to Congress, but 
are in express terms denied, and they are forbidden to exercise 
them. And this prohibition is not confined to the States, but 
the words are general, and extend to the whole Territory over 
which the Constitution gives it power to legislate, including 
those portions of it remaining under Territorial Government, as 
well as that covered by States. It is a total absence of power 
everywhere within the dominion of the United States, and places 
the citizens of a Territory, as far as these rights are concerned, 

50 mk. Buchanan's administration 

on the same footing with citizens of the States, and guards them % 
as firmly and plainly against any inroads which the General 
Government might attempt, under the plea of implied or inci- 
dental powers. And if Congress itself cannot do this — if it is 
beyond the powers conferred on the Federal Government — it 
will he admitted, we presume, that it could not authorize a ter- 
ritorial Government to exercise them. It could confer no power 
on any local Government, established by its authority, to violate 
the provisions- of the Constitution." 

6. " It seems, however, to be supposed, that there is a differ- 
ence between property in a slave and other property, and that 
different rules may be applied to it in expounding the Constitu- 
tion of the United States." " Now, as we have already said in 
an earlier part of this opinion, on a different point, the right of 
property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the 
Constitution. The right to traffic in it, like an ordinary article 
of merchandise and property, was guaranteed to the citizens of 
the United States, in every State that might desire it, for twenty 
years. And the Government in express terms is pledged to 
protect it in all future time, if the slave escapes from his owner. 
This is done in plain words — too plain to be misunderstood. 
And no word can be found in the Constitution which gives Con- 
gress a greater power over slave property, or which entitles 
property of that kind to less protection than property of any 
other description. The only power conferred is the power coupled 
with the duty of guarding and protecting the owner in his 

" Upon these considerations it is the opinion of the Court 
that the Act of Congress which prohibited a citizen from hold- 
ing and owning property of this kind in the territory of the 
United States north of the line therein mentioned [the Missouri 
Compromise line], is not warranted by the Constitution, and is 
therefore void." 

This decision, so full and explicit, established the right of the 
master to take his slaves into the Territories and hold them 
there in despite of all conflicting Congressional or Territorial 
legislation, until the Territories should be prepared to assume 
the position of States. 


It might have been expected that this decision would have 
superseded all opposing political platforms, and ended the con- 
troversy in regard to slavery in the Territories. This expecta- 
tion, notwithstanding, soon proved to be a delusion. Instead 
of yielding it obedience, its correctness and binding effect were 
instantly resisted by the Republican party. They denounced 
and repudiated it in every possible form from the first moment, 
and continued to maintain, in opposition to its express terms, 
that it was not only the right but the duty of Congress to abolish 
slavery in all the Territories. This became a cardinal principle 
in the Chicago platform on which Mr. Lincoln was nominated 
and elected-, and to which his Inaugural proves he had deter- 
mined to adhere. The agitation continued for years, just as 
though the Supreme Court had never decided the question, until 
at length Congress passed an Act, on the 19th June, 1862,* de- 
claring that from and after its passage, " there shall be neither 
slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the Territories of the 
United States now existing, or which may at any time hereafter 
be formed or acquired by the United States, otherwise than in 
punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly 

This Act stands upon the Statute Book in direct conflict 
with the Constitution as expounded by the Supreme Coordinate 
Judicial Tribunal, and is therefore, according to the theory of 
our Government, a mere nullity. 

On the other hand, a large and respectable portion of the old 
Democratic party of the North, best known as the Douglas 
Democracy, equally disregarded the decision of the Supreme 
Court. For some years before it was pronounced, this party, whilst 
admitting that the Constitution authorizes the migration of 
slaves from the States into the Territories, had maintained that 
after their arrival it was competent for the Territorial Legisla- 
ture to impair or destroy the rights of the master. They claimed 
this power by virtue of a supposed inherent attribute of popular 
sovereignty alleged to belong to the first settlers of a Territory, 
just as it exists in the people of one of the States. This doctrine 

* Pamph. Laws, 1861-' 62, p. 432. 

52 me. Buchanan's administration 


was appropriately, though not in good taste, called " squatter 
sovereignty." It involved, at least in appearance, an extension 
of popular rights, and was therefore well calculated to enlist pub- 
lic sympathy in its favor. It was presented and enforced by its 
advocates in such captivating colors, that before the date of the 
decision it had secured many enthusiastic adherents in the North, 
whilst it was utterly repudiated in the South. The Douglas 
Democracy contended that this their favorite theory had been 
recognized in May, 1854, by the Kansas and Nebraska Act, de- 
claring it to be " the true intent and meaning of this Act not to 
legislate slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it 
therefrom; but to leave the people thereof free to form and 
regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject 
only to the Constitution of the United States." 

They ought to have reflected that even if this provision had 
in plain language conferred upon the first settlers the power to 
abolish slavery, still, according to its very terms, it was " subject 
to the Constitution of the United States," and like all other laws 
it would be void if in conflict with this Constitution. "What 
tribunal was to decide this question? Certainly the Supreme 
Court. Indeed the law itself had, in express terms, recognized 
this, by prescribing the appropriate method of bringing the 
question before that Court. After the Court, therefore, in March, 
185 7, had decided the question against their ideas of Territorial 
sovereignty, they ought to have yielded. They ought to have 
acquiesced in the doctrine that property, including that in slaves, 
as well in the Territories as in the States, is placed under the 
protection of the Constitution, and that neither a Territorial 
Legislature nor Congress possesses the power to impair or de- 
stroy it. 

This decision ought surely to have ended the question ; but 
not so. Instead of this, the Douglas Democracy disregarded the 
decision altogether. They treated it as though it had never 
been made, and still continued to agitate without intermission, 
and with powerful effect, until the very day of President Lin- 
coln's election. Absolute non-interference with slavery in the 
Territories, on the part of any human power outside of them, 
was their watchword ; thus leaving the people thereof en- 


tirely free to regulate or destroy it according to their own dis- 

On the other hand, the old Democracy, true to its ancient 
and time-honored principles in support of law and order, at once 
yielded a willing obedience to the decision of the Supreme Court. 
"Whatever differences of opinion previously existed among them 
in regard to the correctness of the decision, at once disappeared. 
Without being the advocates of domestic slavery, they held them- 
selves bound by the compromises made and recorded in the 
Constitution by its illustrious authors, and sustained the decision 
from an imperious sense of public duty. It did not require the 
authority of the Supreme Court to convince a large majority of 
them that a Territorial Legislature had not power to deprive a 
citizen of his property which was denied both to a State Legisla- 
ture and to Congress. This extreme power of sovereignty in the 
latter cases they knew could only be conferred by an amend- 
ment to the State or Federal Constitution. 

The Douglas Democracy still placed their principal reliance, 
as they had done before the decision, on the language of the 
Kansas and Nebraska Act. The difference between them and 
the old Democracy related to the point of time intended by the 
act, when the people of the Territories were recognized to pos- 
sess the power " to form and regulate their domestic institutions 
in their own way." Was this at any time they pleased after 
the arrival of the first settlers, or not until the people should 
assemble in convention to form a State government, when, in 
the language of the act, they were to be admitted into the 
Union " with or without slavery, as their constitution may pre- 
scribe at the time of their admission " ? According to the con- 
struction of the Douglas Democracy, the act recognized their 
right to abolish slavery at any period of the Territorial exist- 
ence ; but according to the construction of the old Democracy, 
there was no recognition of this right, until the period when 
they should meet in convention to form a State constitution ; 
and such was in accordance with the decision of the Supreme 

If the Douglas construction of the act be correct^ it is mor- 
ally certain that the Southern Senators and Representatives who 

54 mr. Buchanan's administration 

were warm advocates of its passage, could not possibly have so 
understood it. If they had, they would then have voluntarily 
voted away the rights of their own constituents. Indeed, such a 
construction of the act would be more destructive to the interests 
of the slaveholder, than the Republican doctrine of Congressional 
exclusion. Better, far better for him to submit the question to 
Congress, where he could be deliberately heard by his representa- 
tives, than to be deprived of his slaves, after he had gone to the 
trouble and expense of transporting them to a Territory, by a 
hasty enactment of a Territorial Legislature elected annually 
and freed from all constitutional restraints. Such a construc- 
tion of the Kansas and Nebraska Act would be in direct opposi- 
tion to the policy and practice of the Government from its origin. 
The men who framed and built up our institutions, so far from 
regarding the Territories to be sovereign, treated them as mere 
wards of the Federal Government. Congress, as a faithful and 
kind guardian, watched over their infancy and promoted their 
growth and prosperity until they attained their majority. During 
the period of their pupilage the persons and property of the 
inhabitants were protected by the Constitution and laws of the 
United States. When the population had so far increased as to 
render this expedient, Congress gave them a Territorial Gov- 
ernment. But in conferring upon the settlers the privilege to 
elect members to the popular branch of the Territorial Legisla- 
ture, they took care to reserve the appointment of the Governor 
and the members of the Council to the President and Senate. 
Moreover, they expressly provided, in the language of the com- . 
promise measures of 1850, " that all the laws passed by the 
Legislative Assembly and Governor shall be submitted to the 
Congress of the United States, and if disapproved, shall be null 
and of no effect." This limitation on their powers was intended 
to restrain them from enacting laws in conflict with the Consti- 
tution, the laws, or the established policy of the United States. 
It produced the happiest effect. The cases are rare, indeed, in 
which Congress found it necessary to exercise this disapproving 
power. It was not then foreseen that any political party would 
arise in this country, claiming the right for the majority of the ' 
first settlers of a Territory, under the plea of popular sovereignty, 


to confiscate the property of the minority. When the popula- 
tion in the Territories had reached a sufficient number, Congress 
admitted them as States into the Union under constitutions 
framed by themselves, " with or without slavery," according to 
their own discretion. 

Long experience had abundantly sanctioned the wisdom of 
this policy. Under its benign influence many powerful and 
prosperous States have been admitted into the Union. No 
serious difficulties had ever occurred until the attempt was made 
to abolish it under the construction in favor of " squatter sov- 
ereignty " given to the Kansas and Nebraska Act. 

The Southern people, who had expected that after the deci- 
sion of the Supreme Court their equal rights in the Territories 
would be respected by the Northern Democracy, were deeply 
mortified and disappointed to find that a large portion of this 
party still persevered in assailing these rights. This exasperated 
them, and placed in the hands of Southern disunion agitators a 
powerful weapon against the Union. 

President Buchanan, ever since the commencement of his 
administration, has been persistently denounced, especially by 
the Douglas Democracy, for sustaining the law as pronounced 
by the highest judicial authority of the country. He has been 
charged with proving faithless to the Cincinnati platform, which 
he accepted and on which he was elected. To prove this would 
be impossible, because it is altogether silent in regard to the 
power of a Territorial Legislature over the question of slavery. 
Nay, more ; whilst affirming, in general terms, the provisions of 
the Kansas and Nebraska Act, it specifically designates a future 
time when slavery may be rightfully abolished, not by the Terri- 
torial Legislature, but by the people. This is when, " acting 
through the legally and fairly expressed will of a majority of 
actual residents, and whenever the number of their inhabitants 
justifies it, [they assemble] to form a constitution with or with- 
out domestic slavery, and be admitted into the Union upon terms 
of perfect equality with the other States." Before this period 
the Cincinnati platform is silent on the subject. The power is 
claimed by its advocates as a mere inference from the general 
language of the Kansas and Nebraska Act. But even if the 

56 me. Buchanan's administration 

right of a Territorial Legislature to abolish slavery had been 
affirmed in express terms by the Cincinnati Convention, which 
was the President bound to obey ? — a political platform, or the 
Constitution as expounded afterwards by the Supreme Court ? 
the decree of a nominating convention, or the supreme law of 
the land ? He could not hesitate in the choice under his oath 
faithfully and to the best of his ability " to preserve, protect, 
and defend the Constitution of the United States." Sad must 
be the condition of any country where an appeal can be taken 
from judicial decisions to excited popular elections ! Under 
our free government all citizens are equal before the law. The 
law and the law alone is their master. When this is disre- 
garded and defied by excited and exasperated popular majori- 
ties, anarchy and confusion must be the inevitable consequence. 
Public and private rights arc sacrificed to the madness of the 
hour. The Government itself becomes helpless for their protec- 
tion, and to avoid such evils history has taught us that the peo- 
ple will at last seek refuge in the arms of despotism. Let all 
free governments in future times profit by our example. Let 
them take warning that the late disastrous civil war, unjustifia- 
ble as it was, would most probably never have existed had not 
the American people disobeyed and resisted the Constitution of 
their country as expounded by the tribunal which they them- 
selves had created for this express purpose. 

The great Democratic party might have maintained its as- 
cendency and saved the Union, had it not been thus hopelessly 
divided at this critical period. Encouraged and emboldened 
by its irreconcilable divisions, the Abolition or Republican party 
no longer confined itself to an opposition to slavery in the Ter- 
ritories. It soon extended its agitation to the suppression of 
slavery within the States. At the first it sought to save ap- 
pearances, but the veil was too transparent to conceal its pur- 



Senator Seward — The "Irrepressible Conflict" — Helper's "Impending Crisis" — The 
John Brown Raid — The nature of Fanaticism — The Democratic National Conven- 
tion at Charleston — Its proceedings and adjournment to Baltimore — Reassem- 
bling at Baltimore and proceedings there — Its breaking up and division into the 
Douglas and the Breckinridge Conventions — Proceedings of each — Review of the 
whole and the effect on the South. 

Senator Seward, of New York, was at this period the 
acknowledged head and leader of the Republican party. In- 
deed, his utterances had become its oracles. He was much more 
of a politician than a statesman. "Without strong convictions, 
he understood the art of preparing in his closet, and uttering 
before the public, antithetical sentences well calculated both to 
inflame the ardor of his anti-slavery friends and to exasperate 
his pro-slavery opponents. If he was not the author of the 
" irrepressible conflict," he appropriated it to himself and con- 
verted it into a party oracle. He thus aroused passions, proba- 
bly without so intending, which it was beyond his power after- 
wards to control. He raised a storm which, like others of whom 
we read in history, he wanted both the courage and the power 
to quell. 

We quote the following extract from his famous speech at 
Rochester on the 25th of October, 1858 : *■ " Free labor and 
slave labor, these antagonistic systems, are continually coming 
into close contact, and collision results. Shall I tell you what 
this collision means ? They who think it is accidental, unneces- 
sary, the work of interested or fanatical agitators, and therefore 
ephemeral, mistake the case altogether. It is an irrepressible 

* Helper's Compendium, p. 142. 

58 me. Buchanan's administration 

conflict between opposing and enduring forces, and it means that 
the United States must and will, sooner or later, become either 
entirely a slaveholding nation or entirely a free-labor nation. 
Either the cotton and rice fields of South Carolina and the 
sugar plantations of Louisiana will ultimately be tilled by free 
labor, and Charleston and New Orleans become marts for legit- 
imate merchandise alone, or else the rye fields and wheat fields 
of Massachusetts and New York must again be surrendered by 
their farmers to slave culture and to the production of slaves, 
and Boston and New York become once more markets for trade 
in the bodies and souls of men." 

However impossible that Massachusetts and New York 
should ever again become slaveholding States, and again engage 
in the African slave trade, yet such was the temper of the times 
that this absurd idea produced serious apprehensions in the 
North. It gave rise to still more serious apprehensions in the 
South. There they believed or affected to believe that the peo- 
ple of the North, in order to avoid the dreaded alternative of 
having slavery restored among themselves, and having their 
rye fields and wheat fields cultivated by slave labor, would put 
forth all their efforts to cut up slavery by the roots in the South- 
ern States. These reckless fancies of Senator Seward made the 
deeper impression upon the public mind, both North and South, 
because it was then generally believed that he would be the 
candidate of the Republican party at the next Presidential elec- 
tion. In accordance with the views expressed by Senator 
Seward, Hinton Helper's " Impending Crisis " soon afterwards 
appeared, a book well calculated to alarm the southern people. 
This was ushered into the world by the following warm com- 
mendation from Mr. Seward himself: * " I have read the ' Im- 
pending Crisis of the South ' with great attention. It seems to 
me a work of great merit, rich yet accurate in statistical infor- 
mation, and logical in analysis." 

On the 9th of March, 1859, a Republican committee in New 
York, consisting of Horace Greeley, Thurlow "Weed, and others, 
issued a circular warmly commending the book, and proposing 
to publish one hundred thousand copies of a compendium of it 

* Fowler's Sectional Controversy, p. 205. 


at a cheap rate for gratuitous circulation. In order to raise 
subscriptions for the purpose, they obtained the recommendation 
of this plan by sixty-eight Eepublican members of Congress, 
with Schuyler Colfax at their head. It is in the following 
terms : * " We the undersigned, members of the House of Rep- 
resentatives of the National Congress, do cordially indorse the 
opinion and approve the enterprise set forth in the foregoing 
circular.' ' 

The author of the book is by birth a North Carolinian, 
though of doubtful personal character, but his labors have since 
been recognized and rewarded by his appointment as Consul of 
the United States at Buenos Ayres. 

Published under such auspices, the " Impending Crisis " "be- 
came at once an authoritative exposition of the principles of the 
Republican party. The original, as well as a compendium, were 
circulated by hundreds of thousands, North, South, East, and 
West. No book could be better calculated for the purpose of 
intensifying the mutual hatred between the North and the South. 
This book, in the first place, proposes to abolish slavery in the 
slaveholding States by exciting a revolution among those called 
w the poor whites," against their rich slaveholding neighbors. 
To accomplish this purpose, every appeal which perverse inge- 
nuity and passionate malignity could suggest, was employed to 
excite jealousy and hatred between these two classes. The cry 
of the poor against the rich, the resort of demagogues in all 
ages, was echoed and reechoed. The plan urged upon the non- 
slaveholding citizens of the South was — f 

1st. " Thorough organization and independent political ac- 
tion on the part of the non-slaveholding whites of the South." 

2d. "Ineligibility of pro-slavery slaveholders. Never another 
vote to any one who advocates the retention and perpetuation 
of human slavery." 

3d. "No cooperation with pro-slavery politicians — no fel- 
lowship with them in religion — no affiliation with them in so- 

4th. " No patronage to pro-slavery merchants — no guestship 

* Con. Globe, 1859-' 60, p. 16. t Compendium, p. 76. 

60 me. Buchanan's administration 

in slave-waiting hotels — no fees to pro-slavery lawyers — no em- 
ployment of pro-slavery physicians — no audience to pro-slavery 

5th. " ISTo more hiring of slaves by non-slaveholders." 
6th. " Abrupt discontinuance of subscription to pro-slavery 

7th. " The greatest possible encouragement to free white 

" This, then," says Mr. Helper, " is the outline of our scheme 
for the abolition of slavery in the Southern States. Let it be 
acted upon with due promptitude, and as certain as truth is 
mightier than error, fifteen years will not elapse before every 
foot of territory, from the mouth of the Delaware to the em- 
boguing of the Bio Grande, will glitter with the jewels of free- 
dom. Some time during this year, next, or the year following, 
let there be a general convention of non-slaveholders from every 
slave State in the Union, to deliberate on the momentous is- 
sues now pending." * Not confining himself even within these 
limits, Mr. Helper proceeds to still greater extremities, and 
exclaims : " But, sirs, slaveholders, chevaliers, and lords of 
the lash, we are unwilling to allow you to cheat the negroes 
out of all the rights and claims to which, as human beings, 
they are most sacredly entitled. Not alone for ourself as an 
individual, but for others also, particularly for five or six mil- 
lions of southern non-slaveholding whites, whom your iniqui- 
tous Statism has debarred from almost all the mental and mate- 
rial comforts of life, do we speak, when we say, you must sooner 
or later emancipate your slaves, and pay each and every one of 
them at least sixty dollars cash in hand. By doing this you 
will be restoring to them their natural rights, and remunerating 
them at the rate of less than twenty-six cents per annum for the 
long and cheerless period of their servitude from the 20th of 
August, 1620, when, on James Biver, in Yirginia, they became 
the unhappy slaves of heartless tyrants. Moreover, by doing 
this you will be performing but a simple act of justice to the 
non-slaveholding whites, upon whom the system of slavery has 

* Pages 89, 90. 


weighed scarcely less heavily than upon the negroes themselves. 
You will, also, be applying a saving balm to your own outraged 
hearts and consciences, and your children — yourselves in fact — 
freed from the accursed stain of slavery, will become respecta- 
ble, useful, and honorable members of society." 

He then taunts and defies the slaveholders in this manner : 
" And now, sirs, we have thus laid down our ultimatum. What 
are you going to do about it ? Something dreadful of course ! 
Perhaps you will dissolve the Union again. Do it, if you dare ! 
Our motto, and we would have you to understand it, is, ' The 
abolition of slavery and the perpetuation of the American 
Union? If, by any means, you do succeed in your treasonable 
attempts to take the South out of the Union to-day, we will 
bring her back to-morrow ; if she goes away with you, she will 
return without you. 

" Do not mistake the meaning of the last clause of the last 
sentence. We could elucidate it so thoroughly that no intelli- 
gent person could fail to comprehend it ; but, for reasons which 
may hereafter appear, we forego the task. 

" Henceforth there are other interests to be consulted in the 
South, aside from the interests of negroes and slaveholders. A 
profound sense of duty incites us to make the greatest possible 
efforts for the abolition of slavery ; an equally profound sense 
of duty calls for a continuation of those efforts until the very 
last foe to freedom shall have been utterly vanquished. To the 
summons of the righteous monitor within, we shall endeavor to 
prove faithful ; no opportunity for inflicting a mortal wound in 
the side of slavery shall be permitted to pass us unimproved. 

" Thus, terror engenderers of the South, have we fully and 
frankly defined our position ; we have no modifications to pro- 
pose, no compromises to offer, nothing to retract. Frown, sirs, 
fret, foam, prepare your weapons, threat, strike, shoot, stab, 
bring on civil war, dissolve the Union, nay, annihilate the solar 
system if you will — do all this, more, less, better, worse, any 
thing — do what you will, sirs, you can neither foil nor intimi- 
date us ; our purpose is as firmly fixed as the eternal pillars of 
heaven ; we have determined to abolish slavery, and so help us 
God, abolish it we will ! Take this to bed with you to-night, 

62 me. Buchanan's administration 

sirs, and think about it, dream over it, and let us know how 
you feel to-morrow morning." 

Such are specimens from the book indorsed and commended 
by the acknowledged leader of the Republican party, after hav- 
ing read it " with great attention," and by sixty-eight prominent 
Republican members of Congress ! In the midst of the excite- 
ment produced by this book, both North and South, occurred the 
raid of John Brown into Yirginia. This was undertaken for 
the avowed purpose of producing a servile insurrection among 
the slaves, and aiding them by military force in rising against 
their masters. 

John Brown was a man violent, lawless, and fanatical. 
Amid the troubles in Kansas he had distinguished himself, both 
by word and by deed, for boldness and cruelty. His ruling 
passion was to become the instrument of abolishing slavery, by 
the strong hand, throughout the slaveholding States. With 
him, this amounted almost to insanity. Notwithstanding all 
this, he was so secret in his purposes that he had scarcely any 
confidants. This appears in a striking manner from the testi- 
mony taken before the Senate Committee.* Several abolition- 
ists had contributed money to him in aid of the anti-slavery 
cause generally, but he had not communicated to them for what 
particular purpose this was to be employed. He had long med- 
itated an irruption into Yirginia, to excite and to aid a rising 
of the slaves against their masters, and for this he had prepared. 
He had purchased two hundred Sharp's carbines, two hundred 
revolver pistols, and about one thousand pikes, with which to 
arm the slaves. These arms he had collected and deposited in 
the vicinity of Harper's Ferry. "When the plot was ripe for 
execution, a little before midnight on Sunday evening, the 16th 
of October, 1859, he, with sixteen white and five negro confed- 
erates, rushed across the Potomac to Harper's Ferry, and there 
seized the armory, arsenal, and rifle factory belonging to the 
United States. When the inhabitants awoke in the morning 
they found, greatly to their terror and surprise, that these places, 
with the town itself, were all in possession of John Brown's 
force. It would be a waste of time to detail the history of this 

* Reports of Senate Committee, 1st Session 36th Congress, No. 278, yoL ii. 


raid. Suffice it to say that on Tuesday morning, 18th, the 
whole band, with the exception of two who had escaped, were 
either killed or captured. Among the latter was John Brown 
himself, badly wounded. In the mean time, however, his* party 
had murdered Hve individuals, four of them unarmed citizens, 
and had wounded nine others. It is proper to observe that 
John Brown, after all his efforts, received no support from the 
slaves in the neighborhood. The news of this attack on Har- 
per's Ferry spread rapidly over the country. All were at first 
ignorant of the strength of the force, and public rumor had 
greatly exaggerated it. The President immediately sent a de- 
tachment of marines to the spot, by which John Brown and his 
party were captured in the engine house, where they had fled 
for shelter and defence. Large numbers of volunteers from 
Virginia and Maryland had also hastened to the scene of action. 
John Brown and several of his party were afterwards tried be- 
fore the appropriate judicial authorities of Virginia, and were 
convicted and executed. 

In the already excited condition of public feeling through- 
out the South, this raid of John Brown made a deeper impres- 
sion on the southern mind against the Union than all former 
events. Considered merely as the isolated act of a desperate 
fanatic, it would have had no lasting effect. It was the enthu- 
siastic and permanent approbation of the object of his expedi- 
tion by the abolitionists of the North, which spread alarm and 
apprehension throughout the South. We are told by Fowler 
in his " Sectional Controversy," that on the day of Brown's 
execution bells were tolled in many places, cannon fired, and 
prayers offered up for him as if he were a martyr ; he was placed 
in the same category with Paul and Silas, for whom prayers 
were made by the Church, and churches were draped in mourn- 
ing. Nor were these honors to his memory a mere transient 
burst of feeling. The Republican party have ever since hon- 
ored him as a saint or a martyr in a cause which they deemed 
so holy. According to them, ".whilst his body moulders in the 
dust his spirit is still marching on " in the van to accomplish 
his bloody purposes. Even blasphemy, which it would be im- 
proper to repeat, has been employed to consecrate his memory. 

64: me. Buchanan's administration 

Fanaticism never stops to reason. Driven by honest impulse, 
it rushes on to its object without regard to interposing obsta- 
cles. Acting on the principle avowed in the Declaration of 
Independence, " that all men are created equal," and believing 
slavery to be sinful, it would not hesitate to pass from its own 
State into other States, and to emancipate their slaves by force 
of arms. We do not stop to inquire whether slavery is sinful. 
We may observe, however, that under the old and new dispensa- 
tions, slaves were held both by Jews and Christians, and rules were 
prescribed for their humane treatment. In the present state of 
civilization, we are free to admit that slavery is a great political 
and social evil. If left to the wise ordinances of a superintending 
Providence, which never acts rashly, it would have been grad- 
ually extinguished in our country, peacefully and without blood- 
shed, as has already been done throughout nearly the whole of 
Christendom. It is true that other countries enjoyed facilities 
for emancipation which we do not possess. In them the slaves 
were of the same color and race with the rest of the commu- 
nity, and in becoming freemen they soon mingled with the gen- 
eral mass on equal terms with their former masters. 

But even admitting slavery to be a sin, have the adherents of 
John Brown never reflected that the attempt by one people to 
pass beyond their own jurisdiction, and to extirpate by force of 
arms whatever they may deem sinful among another people, 
would involve the nations of the earth in perpetual hostilities ? 
We Christians are thoroughly convinced that . Mahomet was a 
false prophet ; shall we, therefore, make war upon the Turkish em- 
pire to destroy Islamism ? If we would preserve the peace of the 
world and avoid much greater evils than we desire to destroy, 
we must act upon the wise principles of international law, and 
leave each people to decide domestic questions for themselves. 
Their sins are not our sins. We must intrust their punishment 
and reformation to their own authorities, ancl to the Supreme 
Governor of nations. This spirit of interference with what we 
may choose to consider the domestic evils of other nations, has 
in former periods covered the earth with blood. Even since the 
advent of Christianity, until a comparatively late period, Cath- 
olics and Protestants, acting on this false principle, have, with 


equal sincerity, made war against each other, to put down dog- 
mas of faith which they mutually believed to be sinful and dan- 
gerous to the soul's salvation, and this in the name of Him who 
descended from heaven to establish a kingdom of peace and 
charity on earth. Spain waged a reckless war against the poor 
Indians of Mexico, to root out the sin of idolatry from their 
midst and compel them to embrace the Christian faith ; and 
whoever shall read the life of Cortes must admit that he acted 
with perfect sincerity, and was intent on their souls' salvation. 
Mahometans, believing Christianity to be sinful, have, in a sim- 
ilar spirit, made war on Christian nations to propagate their 
own faith. 

We might fill volumes with like examples from history. 
These days of darkness and delusion, of doing evil that good 
might come, have, it is to be hoped, passed away for ever under 
the pure light of the Gospel. If all these acts were great wrongs 
in the intercourse between independent nations, if they violated 
the benign principles of Christianity, how much greater would 
the wrong have been had one portion of the sovereign States 
of a confederate union made war against the remainder to extir- 
pate from them the sin of slavery ! And this more especially 
when their common constitution, in its very terms, recognizes 
slavery, restores the runaway slave to his master, and even 
makes the institution a basis for the exercise of the elective 
franchise. With like reason might the State of Maine, whilst 
the delusion of the Maine liquor law prevailed, have made war 
on her sister States to enforce its observance upon their people, 
because drunkenness is a grievous sin in the belief of all Chris- 
tians. In justification of this, she might have alleged that the 
intemperance tolerated among her neighbors, and not her own 
spirit to intermeddle with their concerns, was the cause of 
the war, just as it has been asserted that slavery in the South- 
ern States was the cause of the late war. We may believe 
and indeed know that the people of the North, however much 
they may have extolled the conduct of John Brown, would 
never in practice have carried out his teachings and his exam- 
ple ; but justice requires that we should make a fair allowance 
for the apprehensions of the Southern people, who necessarily 

66 me. Buchanan's administration 

viewed the whole scene from an opposite standpoint. Under 
these circumstances it is no wonder that the South should have 
entertained fearful apprehensions for their peace and safety, in 
the event that the Abolition party should succeed in obtaining 
the reins of the government, an event soon thereafter rendered 
morally certain by the breaking up of the Charleston Demo- 
cratic Convention. To the history of the sad event we now 

It is certain that before the meeting of the Convention, the 
Democratic party of the JSTorth had become seriously divided 
between the old and the Douglas Democracy, and that the lat- 
ter at least was strongly tinctured with an anti-slavery spirit. 

The Convention assembled at Charleston on the 23d of 
April, 1860, to nominate candidates for the offices of President 
and Vice-President. It was composed of delegates from all the 
thirty-three States of the Union, and each State was entitled to 
as many votes as it had Senators and Representatives in Con- 
gress. The whole number of votes was, therefore, 303 ; and 
under the two-thirds rule which it adopted, after the example 
of former Conventions, 202 votes were required to make a nom- 
ination.* The Convention elected Hon. Caleb Cushing, of 
Massachusetts, its President. 

This Convention had no sooner assembled than a radical 
difference of opinion was exhibited among its members in regard 
to the status of slavery in the Territories. The old Democratic 
portion, invoking the Dred Scott decision, held that slave prop- 
erty, under the Constitution, was entitled to the same protec- 
tion therein with any other property ; whilst the Douglas dele- 
gates, in opposition to this decision, maintained the power of a 
Territorial Legislature to impair or destroy this property in its 
discretion. On the day after the Convention assembled (24th 
April), a committee was appointed, consisting of a delegate 
from each State, selected by the respective State delegations, to 
report resolutions as a platform for the party; and on the same 
day it was resolved unanimously " that this Convention will not 
proceed to ballot for a candidate for the Presidency until the 
platform shall have been adopted." On the 27th of April the 
Committee on Resolutions made majority and minority reports.f 

Report of Proceedings, p. 11. + 5th day, p. 45. 


After a long, able, and eloquent discussion on the respective 
merits of the two reports, they were both, on motion of Mr. 
Bigler, of Pennsylvania, re-committed to the Committee on 
Resolutions,* with a view, if possible, to promote harmony ; but 
this proved to be impracticable. On the sixth day of the Con- 
vention (Saturday, April 28th), f at an evening session, Mr. 
Avery, of North Carolina, and Mr. Samuels, of Iowa, from the 
majority and minority of the committee, again made opposite 
and conflicting reports on the question of slavery in the Terri- 
tories. On this question the committee had divided from the 
beginning, the one portion embracing the fifteen members from 
the slaveholding States, with those from California and Oregon, 
and the other consisting of the members from all the free States 
east of the Rocky Mountains. On all other questions both 
reports substantially agreed, and therefore in regard to them no 
special notice is required. 

The following is the report of the majority made on this 
subject by Mr. Avery, of North Carolina, the chairman of the 
committee : " JResolved, That the platform adopted by the Dem- 
ocratic party at Cincinnati be affirmed with the following ex- 
planatory resolutions : 1st. That the Government of a Terri- 
tory, organized by an act of Congress, is provisional and tempo- 
rary, and during its existence all citizens of the United States 
have an equal right to settle with their property in the Terri- 
tory, without their rights, either of person or property, being 
destroyed or impaired by Congressional or Territorial legislation. 
2d. That it is the duty of the Federal Government, in all its 
departments, to protect, when necessary, the rights of persons 
and property in the Territories, and wherever else its constitu- 
tional authority extends. 3d. That when the settlers in a Ter- 
ritory having an adequate population form a State Constitution, 
the right of sovereignty commences, and being consummated 
by admission into the Union, they stand on an equal footing 
with the people of other States, and the State thus organized 
ought to be admitted into the Federal Union whether its consti- 
tution prohibits or recognizes the institution of slavery." It 

* Page 89. t Pages 92, 93. 

68 me. Buchanan's administeatton 

will be perceived that these resolutions are in exact conformity 
with the decision of the Supreme Court. 

The following is the report of the minority, made by Mr. 
Samuels, of Iowa. After re-affirming the Cincinnati platform 
by the first resolution, it proceeds : " Inasmuch as differences 
of opinion exist in the Democratic party, as to the nature and 
extent of the powers of a Territorial Legislature, and as to the 
powers and duties of Congress, under the Constitution of the 
United States, over the institution of slavery within the Terri- 
tories, Resolved, That the Democratic party will abide by the 
decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States upon ques- 
tions of constitutional law." 

It must strike the reader that this resolution does not meet 
the question, but is vague and evasive. It entirely ignores the 
fact that all these " questions of constitutional law " had been 
already decided by the Supreme Court, and that in regard to 
them no differences of opinion could exist among those who 
were willing to recognize its authority. It leaves the rights of 
the master over slave property in the Territories as an open 
question, and places them at the mercy of a majority in Terri- 
torial Legislatures, until some future decision should be made, 
not on this specific question, but generally " on questions of 
constitutional law." In fact, it treats the decision as though it 
had never been made. It is proper to observe that we have 
included the member of the committee from Massachusetts (Mr. 
Butler) among the sixteen votes in favor of the minority report, 
because, although he made a separate report of his own, this was 
confined to a simple recommendation of the Cincinnati platform 
and nothing more. The opposing reports from the Northern 
and the Southern members of the committee were thus distinctly 
placed before the Convention. It was soon manifest that should 
the minority report prevail, the Convention must be broken into 

After some preliminary remarks, Mr. Samuels moved the 
adoption of the minority report as a substitute for that of the 
majority.* This gave rise to an earnest and excited debate. 
The difference between the parties was radical and irreconcila- 

* Page 97. 


ble. The South insisted that the Cincinnati platform, whose 
true construction in regard to slavery in the Territories had al- 
ways been denied by a portion of the Democratic party, should 
be explained and settled by an express recognition of the prin- 
ciples decided by the Supreme Court. The North, on the other 
hand, refused to recognize this decision, and still maintained the 
power to be inherent in the people of a Territory to deal with the 
question of slavery according to their own discretion. The vote 
was then taken, and the minority report was substituted for that 
of the majority by a vote of one hundred and sixty-five to one 
hundred and thirty-eight.* The delegates from the six New Eng- 
land States, as well as from New York, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, 
Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota, fourteen free States, 
cast their entire vote in favor of the minority report. New Jersey 
and Pennsylvania alone among the free States east of the 
Rocky Mountains refused to vote as States, but their delegates 
voted as individuals. Had all the States voted as units, without 
regard to the respective minorities in each ; or, on the other hand, 
had the delegates from all the States voted as individuals, in either 
case the majority report would have been sustained, and the 
Democratic party might have been saved. It was the want of 
uniformity in the mode of voting that produced the disastrous 
result. The means employed to attain this end were skilfully 
devised by the minority of the Pennsylvania delegation in fa- 
vor of nominating Mr. Douglas, f The entire delegation had, 
strangely enough, placed this power in their hands, by selecting 
two of their number, Messrs. Cessna and Wright, to represent 
the whole on the two most important committees of the Con- 
vention — that of organization and that of resolutions. These 
gentlemen, by adroitness and parliamentary tact, succeeded in 
abrogating the former practice of casting the vote of the State 
as a unit, and in reducing it almost to a cipher. In this man- 
ner, whilst New York indorsed with her entire thirty-five votes 
the peculiar views of Mr. Douglas, notwithstanding there was 
in her delegation a majority of only five votes in their favor on 
the question of Territorial sovereignty,^ the effective strength 
of Pennsylvania recognizing the judgment of the Supreme 

* Page 112. 7th day, April 30. t Page 21. % Mr. Bartlett, p. 249. 

70 mr. Buchanan's administeatton 

Court was reduced to three votes, this being the majority of fif- 
teen on the one side over twelve on the other. 

The question next in order before the Convention was upon 
the adoption of the second resolution of the minority of the 
committee, which had been substituted for the report of the 
majority. On this question Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Ar- 
kansas, Texas, Florida, and Mississippi refused to vote.* In- 
deed, it soon appeared that on the question of the final adoption 
of this second vague and general resolution, which in fact 
amounted to nothing, it had scarcely any friends of either party 
in the Convention. The Douglas party, abandoning their own 
offspring, and preferring to it the Cincinnati platform, pure and 
simple, without explanation or addition, voted against it."}" On 
the other hand, the old Democracy could not vote for it with- 
out admitting that the Supreme Court had not already placed 
the right over slave property in the Territories on the same 
footing with all other property, and therefore they also voted 
against it. In consequence the resolution was negatived by a 
vote of only twenty- one in its favor to two hundred and thirty- 
eight. J Had the seven Southern States just mentioned voted, 
the negatives would have amounted to two hundred and eighty- 
two, or more than thirteen to one. Thus both the majority and 
the minority resolutions on the Territorial question were re- 
jected, and nothing remained before the Convention except the 
Cincinnati platform. 

At this stage of the proceedings § (April 30th), the States 
of Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, 
Texas, and Arkansas, having assigned their reasons for the act, 
withdrew in succession from the Convention, j After these 
seven States had retired, the delegation from Virginia made a 
noble effort to restore harmony.^" Mr. Russell, their chairman, 
addressed the Convention in a solemn and impressive manner. 
He portrayed the alarming nature of the crisis. He expressed 
his fears that we were on the eve of a revolution, and if this 
Convention should prove a failure it would be the last National 
Convention of any party which would ever assemble in the 

* Page 116. t Ibid. J Ibid. § Pp. 118-125. 

| Pp. 126, 127. IT 30th April, 7th day, p. 126. 


United States. " Virginia," said he, " stands in the midst of 
her sister States, in garments red with the blood of her children 
slain in the first outbreak of the ' irrepressible conflict.' But, 
sir, not when her children fell at midnight beneath the weapon 
of the assassin, was her heart penetrated with so profound a 
grief as that which will wring it when she is obliged to choose 
between a separate destiny with the South, and her common 
destiny with the entire Republic." 

Mr. Russell was not then prepared to answer, in behalf of 
his delegation, whether the events of the day [the defeat of the 
majority report, and the withdrawal of the seven States] were 
sufficient to justify her in taking the irrevocable step in ques- 
tion. In order, therefore, that they might have time to delib- 
erate, and if they thought proper make an effort to restore har- 
mony in the Convention, he expressed a desire that it might 
adjourn and afford them an opportunity for consultation.* The 
Convention accordingly adjourned until the next day, Tuesday, 
May 1st ; and immediately after its reassembling the delegation 
from Georgia, making the eighth State, also withdrew, f 

In the mean time the Virginia delegation had consulted 
among themselves, and had conferred with the delegations of 
the other Southern States which still remained in the Conven- 
tion, as to the best mode of restoring harmony 4 In conse- 
quence Mr. Howard, of Tennessee, stated to the Convention 
• that " he had a proposition to present in behalf of the delega- 
tion from Tennessee, whenever, under parliamentary rules, it 
would be proper to present it." In this Tennessee was joined 
by Kentucky and Virginia, "the three great middle States 
which stand as a breakwater against fanaticism on one side and 
disunion on the other. He should propose the following reso- 
lution, whenever it would be in order : c Resolved, That the 
citizens of the United States have an equal right to settle with 
their property in the Territories of the United States ; and that, 
under the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, 
which we recognize as the correct exposition of the Constitution 
of the United States, neither the rights of person nor property 

* Page 128, 8th day. t Ibid. % Page 136. 

72 me. Buchanan's administeation 

can be destroyed or impaired by Congressional or Territorial 
legislation.' " * 

" Mr. Russell, as chairman of the delegation from Virginia, 
rose to express the sentiments entertained by the delegation from 
that State, and the position they occupy this morning in this 
Convention. They came here for the double purpose of defend- 
ing the rights of the South, which are involved in the great issues 
of the day, and of maintaining the integrity of the American 
Union. The events of yesterday had especially left him a deli- 
cate task to perform. Events had occurred which their constit- 
uency never contemplated when they were sent here. They de- 
sired that the Democratic party should remain complete, what- 
ever might be done in this Convention. With these general 
views, the Virginia delegation had entered into consultation 
among themselves, and had conferred with their sister Southern 
States remaining in the Convention. They believed that the 
resolution just read by the gentleman from Tennessee [Mr. 
Howard] presented a reasonable basis of settlement among all 
parties, North and South, affirming, as it did, the doctrine of 
the decision of the Supreme Court, and going no further." 

On a subsequent day (May 3d), Mr. Russell informed the 
Convention that this resolution had, " he believed, received the 
approbation of all the delegations from the Southern States 
which remained in the Convention, and also received the appro- 
bation of the delegation from New York. He was informed 
there was strengthe nough to pass it when in order." f Of this 
there could have been no doubt, with the vote of New York in 
its favor. Had it been adopted, what an auspicious event this 
would have been both for the Democratic party and the coun- 

Mr. Howard, however, in vain attempted to obtain a vote 
on his resolution. "When he moved to take it up on the evening 
of the day it had been offered, he was met by cries of " Not in 
order," " Not in order." J The manifest purpose was to postpone 
its consideration until the hour should arrive which had been 
fixed by a previous order of the Convention, in opposition to its 
first order on the same subject, for the balloting to commence 

* Page 136. + Page 152. X Page 138. 


for a Presidential candidate, when it would be too late. This 
the friends of Mr. Douglas accomplished, and no vote was ever 
taken upon it either at Charleston or Baltimore. 

Before the balloting commenced Mr. Howard succeeded, Id 
the face of strong opposition, with the aid of the thirty-five 
votes from New York, in obtaining a vote of the Convention 
in affirmance of the two-thirds rule. On his motion they re- 
solved, by 141 to 112 votes,* " that the President of the Con- 
vention be and he is hereby directed not to declare any person 
nominated for the office of President or Yice-President, unless 
he shall have received a number of votes equal to two-thirds of 
the votes of all the electoral colleges." It was well known at 
the time that this resolution rendered the regular nomination 
of Mr. Douglas impossible. 

The balloting then commenced (Tuesday evening, May 1st), 
on the eighth day of the session.f Necessary to a nomination, 
under the two-thirds rule, 202 votes. On the first ballot Mr. 
Douglas received 145^ votes ; Mr. Hunter, of Virginia, 42 ; Mr. 
Guthrie, of Kentucky, 35|- ; Mr. Johnson, of Tennessee, 12 ; 
Mr. Dickinson, of New York, 7 ; Mr. Lane, of Oregon, 6 ; Mr. 
Toucey, of Connecticut, 2 ■§• ; Mr. Davis, of Mississippi, 1J, and 
Mr. Pearce, of Maryland, 1 vote. 

The* voting continued until 3d May, during which there 
were fifty-four additional ballotings. Mr. Douglas never rose 
to more than 152^, and ended at 151| votes, 202 votes being 
necessary to a nomination. Of these votes, at least 110 were 
given by delegates from States which, judging from their ante- 
cedents, could not give him or any Democratic candidate a sin- 
gle electoral vote. 

This statement proves the wisdom and foresight of those who 
adopted the two-thirds rule. Until 182£ nominations had been 
made by Congressional caucus. In these none participated ex- 
cept Senators from Democratic States, and Representatives from 
Democratic Congressional districts. The simple majority rule 
governed in these caucuses, because it was morally certain that, 
composed as they were, no candidate could be selected against 
the will of the Democratic States on whom his election de- 

* Page 141. t Pages 141-152. 

74 me. Buchanan's administration 

pended. But when a change was made to National Conven- 
tions, it was at once perceived that if a mere majority conld 
nominate, then the delegates from Anti-Democratic States might 
be mainly instrumental in nominating a candidate for whom 
they could not give a single electoral vote. Whilst it would 
have been harsh and inexpedient to exclude these States from 
the Convention altogether, it would have been unjust to confer 
on them a controlling power over the nomination. To com- 
promise this difficulty, the two-thirds rule was adopted. Under 
its operation it would be almost impossible that a candidate 
could be selected, without the votes of a simple majority of del- 
egates from the Democratic States. 

It had now become manifest that it was impossible to make 
a nomination at Charleston. The friends of Mr. Douglas ad- 
hered to him and would vote for him and him alone, whilst his 
opponents, apprehending the effect of his principles should he 
be elected President, were equally determined to vote against 
his nomination. 

In the hope that some compromise might yet be effected to 
save the Democratic party, the Convention, on the motion of 
Mr. Russell, of Yirginia, resolved to adjourn to meet at Balti- 
more on Monday, the 18th June ; * and it was " respectfully rec- 
ommended to the Democratic party of the several States, to 
make provision for supplying all vacancies in their respective 
delegations to this Convention when it shall assemble." 

The Convention re-assembled at Baltimore on the 18th June, 
1860, f according to its adjournment, and. Mr. Cushing, the Pres- 
ident, took the chair. It was greatly to be desired that the 
Southern delegates who had withdrawn at Charleston might 
resume their seats at Baltimore, and thus restore the Conven- 
tion to its original integrity. In that event high hopes were 
still entertained that both parties might harmonize in selecting 
some eminent Democratic statesman, not obnoxious to either as 
a candidate, and thus save the Democracy of the Union from 
certain defeat. Every discerning citizen foresaw that without 
such a re-union the Democratic party would continue to be 
hopelessly divided, and the Bepublican candidates must inevi- 
tably be elected. 

* Pages 152-154, 10th day, May 3d. t Page 155. 


Immediately after the reorganization of the Convention, 
Mr. Howard, of Tennessee, offered a resolution, " that the Pres- 
ident of this Convention direct the sergeant-at-arms to issue 
tickets of admission to the delegates of the Convention, as orig- 
inally constituted and organized at Charleston." Thus the vi- 
tally important question was distinctly presented. It soon, 
however, became manifest that no such resolution could prevail. 
In the absence of the delegates who had withdrawn at Charles- 
ton, the friends of Mr. Douglas constituted a controlling major- 
ity. At the threshold they resisted the admission of the orig- 
inal delegates, and contended that by withdrawing they had 
irrevocably resigned their seats. In support of this position, 
they relied upon the language of the resolution adjourning the 
Convention to Baltimore, which, as we have seen, "recom- 
mended, to the Democratic party of the several States to make 
provision for supplying all vacancies in their respective delega- 
tions to this Convention, when it shall reassemble." On the 
other hand, the advocates of their readmission contended that 
a simple withdrawal of the delegates was not a final renuncia- 
tion of their seats, but they were still entitled to reoccupy them, 
whenever, in their judgment, this course would be best calculated 
to restore the harmony and promote the success of the Demo- 
cratic party ; that the Convention had no right to interpose be- 
tween them and the Democracy of their respective States ; that 
being directly responsible to this Democracy, it alone could ac- 
cept their resignation ; that no such resignation had ever been 
made, and their authority therefore continued in full force, and 
this, too, with the approbation of their constituents. 

In the mean time, after the adjournment from Charleston 
to Baltimore, the friends of Mr. Douglas, in several of these 
States, had proceeded to elect delegates to take the place of 
those who had withdrawn from the Convention, but not in any 
instance, it is believed, according to the rules and usages of the 
Democratic party. Indeed, it was manifest at the time, and 
has since been clearly proved by the event, that these delegates 
represented but a small minority of the party in their respective 
States. These new delegates, nevertheless, appeared and de- 
manded seats. 

76 mr. buchakan's administration 

After a long and ardent debate, the Convention adopted a 
resolution, offered by Mr. Church, of New York, and modified on 
motion of Mr. Gilmore, of Pennsylvania, as a substitute for 
that of Mr. Howard, to refer " the credentials of all persons 
claiming seats in this Convention, made vacant by the secession 
of delegates at Charleston, to the Committee on Credentials." 
They thus prejudged the question, by deciding that the seats of 
these delegates had been made and were still vacant. The 
Committee on Credentials had been originally composed of one 
delegate from each of the thirty-three States, but the number 
was now reduced to twenty-five, in consequence of the ex- 
clusion of eight of its members from the States of Georgia, 
Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, Arkan- 
sas, and Florida. The committee, therefore, now stood 16 to 
9 in favor of the nomination of Mr. Douglas, instead, of 17 to 
16 against it, according to its original organization.* 

The committee, through their chairman, Mr. Krum, of Mis- 
souri, made their report on the 21st June, and Governor Ste- 
vens, of Oregon, at the same time presented a minority report, 
signed by himself and eight other members. 

It is unnecessary to give in detail these conflicting reports. 
It is sufficient to state that whilst the report of the majority 
maintained that the delegates, by withdrawing at Charleston, 
had resigned their seats, and these were still vacant ; that of the 
minority, on the contrary, asserted the right of these delegates 
to resume their seats in the Convention, by virtue of their orig- 
inal appointment. 

In some respects the majority report presented a strange 
aspect. Whilst it recommended the admission of all the new 
delegates from the States of Alabama and Louisiana, to the 
exclusion of the old, it divided Georgia equally between the 
conflicting parties, allowing one half to each, thus rendering the 
vote of the State a mere nullity. This anomaly was, however, 
afterwards corrected by a vote of the Convention. Indeed, the 
new delegates voluntarily withdrew their claim to seats. 

On the next day (June 22),f the important decision was 
made between the conflicting reports. Mr. Stevens moved to 

* Pages 187-191. + Page 203. 


substitute the minority report for that of the majority, and his 
motion was rejected by a vote of 100 \ to 150. Of course no 
vote was given from any of the excluded States, except one half 
vote from each of the parties in Arkansas. 

The resolutions of the majority, except the ninth, relating 
to the Georgia delegation, were then adopted in succession. 
Among other motions of similar character, a motion had been 
made by a delegate in the majority to reconsider the vote by 
which the Convention had adopted the minority report, as a 
substitute for that of the majority, and to lay his own motion 
on the table. This is a common mode resorted to, according to 
parliamentary tactics, of defeating every hope of a reconsider- 
ation of the pending question, and rendering the first decision 

Mr. Cessna, always on the alert, with this view called for a 
vote on laying the motion to reconsider on the table. Should 
this be negatived, then the question of reconsideration would be 
open. The President stated the question to be first " on laying 
on the table the motion to reconsider the vote by which the Con- 
vention refused to amend the majority report of the Committee 
on Credentials by substituting the report of the minority." On 
this question New York, for the first time since the meeting at 
Baltimore, voted with the minority and changed it into a ma- 
jority. " When New York was called," says the report of the 
proceedings, " and responded thirty-five votes " (in the negative), 
" the response was greeted with loud cheers and applause." f 
The result of the vote was 113£ to 138| — " so the Convention 
refused to lay on the table the motion to reconsider the minor- 
ity report." The Convention then adjourned until the evening, 
on motion of Mr. Cochrane, of New York, amidst great excite- 
ment and confusion. 

This vote of New York, appearing to indicate a purpose to 
harmonize the party by admitting the original delegates from 
the eight absent States, was not altogether unexpected. Although 
voting as a unit, it was known that her delegation were greatly 
divided among themselves. The exact strength of the minority 
was afterwards stated by Mr. Bartlett, one of its members, in 

* Page 209. t Page 210. 

78 me. Buchanan's administration 

the Breckinridge Convention.** He said : " Upon all questions 
and especially upon the adoption of the majority report on cre- 
dentials, in which we had a long contest, the line was strictly 
drawn, and there were thirty on one side and forty on the other." 
This was equal to fifteen yotes to twenty. 

The position of New York casting an undivided vote of 
thirty-five, with Dean Richmond at their head, had been a con- 
trolling power from the commencement. Her responsibility 
was great in proportion. Had she cast her weight into the -scale 
at Charleston in favor of the majority report on the resolutions 
and in accordance with the decision of the Supreme Court, this, 
as we have already seen, would have prevailed by a vote of 173 
to 130. Such a result might probably have terminated the 
controversy between the North and the South. 

After the retirement of the Southern delegations at Charles- 
ton, the delegation from New York had appeared to be willing 
to change their course and adopt the compromise platform pro- 
posed by Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, with the approba- 
tion of the other border States still in the Convention. This 
was in fact nothing more than an affirmance of the decision of 
the Supreme Court. In advocating it, Mr. Russell, of Virginia, 
whose ability and spirit of conciliation had been displayed 
throughout, stated his belief, as we have seen, that it had " re- 
ceived the approbation of the delegation from New York ; " and 
this statement was not contradicted. This would have secured 
its adoption. The means by which a vote upon the question 
was defeated at Charleston by the commencement of the ballot- 
ing have already been presented. Strong expectations were, 
therefore, now entertained that after the New York delegation 
had recorded their vote against a motion which would have 
killed the minority report beyond hope of revival, they would 
now follow this up by taking the next step in advance and voting 
for its reconsideration and adoption.f On the evening of the 
very same day, however, they reversed their course and voted 
against its reconsideration. They were then cheered by the 
opposite party from that which had cheered them in the morn- 
ing. Thus the action of the Convention in favor of the majority 
report became final and conclusive.^ 

* Page 249. t Page 211. % Page 211. 


Mr. Cessna, of Pennsylvania, always eager, at once moved 
" that the Convention do now proceed to nominate candidates 
for President and Vice-President of the United States." These 
proceedings immediately produced the disastrous effects which 
must have been foreseen by all.* 

Mr. Kussell rose and stated, " It has become my duty now, 
by direction of a large majority of the delegation from Yirginia, 
respectfully to inform you and this body, that it is not consist- 
ent with their convictions of duty to participate longer in its 
deliberation s."f 

Mr. Leader next stated u that it became his duty, as one of 
the delegates from North Carolina, to say that a very large 
majority of the delegation from that State were compelled to re- 
tire permanently from this Convention, on account, as he con- 
ceived, of the unjust course that had been pursued toward some 
of their fellow-citizens of the South. The South had heretofore 
relied upon the Northern Democracy to give them the rights 
which were justly due them ; but the vote to-day had satisfied 
the majority of the North Carolina delegation that these rights 
were now refused them, and this being the case, they could no 
longer remain in the Convention." 

Then followed in succession the withdrawal of the delegations 
from Tennessee, J Kentucky, § Maryland,] California^ Oregon,** 
and Arkansas.ft The Convention now adjourned at half-past 
ten o'clock until the next morning at ten. 

Soon after the assembling of the Convention \\ the President, 
Mr. dishing, whilst tendering his thanks to its members for 
their candid and honorable support in the performance of his 
duties, stated that notwithstanding the retirement of the delega- 
tions of several of the States at Charleston, in his solicitude to 
maintain the harmony and union of the Democratic party, he had 
continued in his post of labor. " To that end and in that sense," 
said he, " I had the honor to meet you, gentlemen, here at Balti- 
more. But circumstances have since transpired which compel 
me to pause. The delegations of a majority of the States have, 
either in whole or in part, in one form or another, ceased to par- 

* Page 212. + Page 213. % Page 213. § Page 213. | Page 214. 
7 Pages 215-217. ** Page 217. ft Page 225. %% Sixth day, June 23d, page 225. 


ticipate in the deliberations of the Convention. * * * In 
the present circumstances, I deem it a duty of self-respect, and I 
deem it still more a duty to this Convention, as at present or- 
ganized, * * * to resign my seat as President of this Con- 
vention, in order to take my place on the floor as a member of 
the delegation from Massachusetts. * * * I deem this above 
all a duty which I owe to the members of this Convention, as to 
whom no longer would my action represent the will of a majority 
of the Convention." * 

" Governor Tod, of Ohio, one of the Yice-Presidents, then 
took the vacant chair, and was greeted with hearty and long- 
continued cheers and applause from members of the Convention." 

" Mr. Butler, of Massachusetts, now announced that a portion 
of the Massachusetts delegation desired to retire, but was inter- 
rupted by cries of ' No,' ' Eo,' c Call the roll.' The indefatiga- 
ble Mr. Cessna called for the original question, to wit, that the 
Convention now proceed to a nomination for President and Yice- 

" The President here ordered the Secretary to call the States. 
Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont were called, and they 
gave an unbroken vote for Stephen A. Douglas. "When Mas- 
sachusetts was called, Mr. Butler rose and said he had a respect- 
ful paper in his hand which he would desire the President to 
have read. A scene of great confusion thereupon ensued, cries 
of ' I object - being heard upon all sides." Mr. Butler, not to be 
baffled, contended for his right at this stage to make remarks 
pertinent to the matter, and cited in his support the practice of 
the Conventions at Baltimore in 1848 and 1852, and at Cincin- 
nati in 1856. He finally prevailed, and was permitted to pro- 
ceed. He then said he " would now withdraw from the Conven- 
tion, upon the ground that there had been a withdrawal, in whole 
or in part, of a majority of the States ; and further, which was a 
matter more personal to himself, he could not sit in a Conven- 
tion where the African slave trade, which was piracy according 
to the laws of his country, was openly advocated." 

Mr. Butler then retired, followed by General Cushing and 
four others of the Massachusetts delegation. 

* Page 226. 


The balloting now proceeded. Mr. Douglas received 173J 
votes ; Mr. Guthrie 9 ; Mr. Breckinridge 6£ ; Mr. Bocock and 
Mr. Seymour each 1 ; and Mr. Dickinson and Mr. Wise each 
half a vote. On the next and last ballot Mr. Douglas received 
181£ votes, eight of those in the minority having changed their 
votes in his favor. 

To account for this number, it is proper to state that a few 
delegates from five of the eight States which had withdrawn still 
remained in the Convention. On the last ballot Mr. Douglas 
received all of their votes, to wit : 3 of the 15 votes of Virginia, 
1 of the 10 votes of North Carolina, 1£ of the 3 votes of Ar- 
kansas, 3 of the 12 votes of Tennessee, 3 of the 12 votes of 
Kentucky, and 2J of the 8 votes of Maryland, making in the 
aggregate 14 votes. To this number may be added the 9 votes 
of the new delegates from Alabama and the 6 from Louisiana, 
who had been admitted to the exclusion of the original dele- 
gates. If these 29 votes from Southern States be deducted 
from the 181 \ votes nominating Mr. Douglas, that number would 
be reduced to 152 J. 

These proceedings had now rendered it clear that Mr. Doug- 
las could not, as he did not, receive one electoral vote from any 
of the sixteen Democratic States of Delaware, Maryland, Vir- 
ginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Lou- 
isiana, Mississippi, Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkan- 
sas, California, and Oregon. He owed his nomination almost 
exclusively to States which could not give him a single electoral 
vote. What was still more ominous of evil, the division was 
sectional between the free and the slaveholding States, between 
the North and the South. It might have been supposed that 
these disastrous circumstances, foreboding such dangers both to 
the Democratic party and .the Union, would have caused his 
friends to pause, and at the last moment consent to some means 
of conciliation. But they rushed on to complete their work, 
regardless of consequences. The two-thirds rule interposed no 
obstacle in their course, although it had been expressly adopted 
and readopted by this Convention, and the very case had now 
occurred — the nomination by nearly all the Anti-Democratic 
States — against which its original authors, with wise foresight, 

82 mr. Buchanan's administration 

intended to guard. Mr. Douglas was accordingly declared to 
be the regular nominee of the Democratic party of the Union,* 
upon the motion of Mr. Church, of New York, when, accord- 
ing to the report of the proceedings, " The whole body rose to 
its feet, hats were waved in the air, and many tossed aloft ; 
shouts, screams, and yells, and every boisterous mode of express- 
ing approbation and unanimity, were resorted to." 

Senator Fitzpatrick, of Alabama, was then unanimously 
nominated as the candidate for Yice-President ; and the Conven- 
tion adjourned sine die on the 23d June, the sixth and last 
day of its session. f On the same day, but after the adjourn- 
ment, Mr. Fitzpatrick declined the nomination, and it was 
immediately conferred on Mr. Herschel Y. Johnson, of Geor- 
gia, by the Executive Committee. Thus ended the Douglas 

But another Convention assembled at Baltimore on the 
same 23d June,J styling itself also, and with as little reason, 
the " National Democratic Convention." It was composed 
chiefly of the delegates who had just withdrawn from the Doug- 
las Convention, and the original delegates from Alabama and 
Louisiana. One of their first acts was to abrogate the two- 
thirds rule, as had been done by the Douglas Convention. 
Both acted under the same necessity, because the preservation 
of this rule would have prevented a nomination by either. 
This consideration, instead of causing both to desist and appeal 
to the people of the States to appoint a new Convention for the 
salvation of the Democratic party, was totally disregarded. 

Mr. Cushing was elected and took the chair as President. 
In his opening address* he said : " Gentlemen of the Conven- 
tion, we assemble here, delegates to the National Democratic 
Convention [applause], duly accredited thereto from more than 
twenty States of the Union [applause], for the purpose of nomi- 
nating candidates of the Democratic party for the offices of 
President and Yice-President of the United States, for the pur- 
pose of announcing the principles of the party, and for the pur- 
pose of continuing and reestablishing that party upon the firm 
foundations of the Constitution, the Union, and the coequal 
rights of the several States." § 

* Pages 231-236. t Page 239. % Page 241. § Page 243. 


Mr. Avery, of North Carolina, who had reported the major- 
ity resolutions at Charleston, now reported the same from the 
committee of this body, and they "were adopted unanimously, 
amid great applause." 

The Convention then proceeded to select their candidates. 
Mr. Loring, on behalf of the delegates from Massachusetts, who 
with Mr. Butler had retired from the Douglas Convention, 
nominated John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, which Mr. 
Dent, representing the Pennsylvania delegation present, "most 
heartily seconded." Mr. "Ward, from the Alabama delegation, 
nominated R. M. T. Hunter, of Virginia ; Mr. Ewing, from 
that of Tennessee, nominated Mr. Dickinson, of New York ; 
and Mr. Stevens, from Oregon, nominated General Joseph Lane. 
Eventually all these names were withdrawn except that of Mr. 
Breckinridge, and he received the nomination by a unanimous 
vote. The whole number of votes cast in his favor from twenty 
States was 103J. The vote of Mr. Douglas was considerably 
greater, but Mr. Breckinridge received a large majority over 
him from States known to be Democratic. 

General Lane was unanimously nominated as the candidate 
for Vice-President. Thus terminated the Breckinridge Conven- 

The 23d of June, 1860, was a dark and gloomy day both 
for the Democratic party and the Union. It foreboded nothing 
but evil. There could be no pretence that either candidate had 
been nominated according to the established rules of the party. 
Every individual Democrat was, therefore, left at liberty to 
choose between them. In many localities, especially North, 
their respective partisans became more violent against each 
other than against the common foe. No reasonable hope could 
remain for the election of Mr. Douglas or Mr. Breckinridge. 
It was morally certain that Mr. Lincoln would be the next Pres- 
ident, and this added greatly to his strength. The result was, 
that of the 303 electoral votes, Mr. Douglas received but 12 * 
(3 from New Jersey, and 9 from Missouri), and Mr. Breckin- 
ridge only 72 (3 from Delaware, 8 from Maryland, 10 from 
North Carolina, 8 from South Carolina, 10 from Georgia, 6 

* Congressional Globe, I860-' 61, page 894. 

84 me. Buchanan's administration 

from Louisiana, 7 from Mississippi, 9 from Alabama, 4 from 
Arkansas, 3 from Florida, and 4 from Texas). Virginia, North 
Carolina, and Tennessee cast their 39 votes for John Bell, of 
Tennessee, of the self-styled Constitutional Union party. 

In reviewing the whole, it is clear that the original cause of 
the disaster was the persistent refusal of the friends of Mr. 
Douglas to recognize the constitutional rights of the slavehold- 
ing States in the Territories, established by the Supreme Court. 
These rights the Southern States could not yield after the de- 
cision, without a sense of self-degradation, and voluntary aban- 
donment of their equality with their sister States, as members 
of the Union. But were they justified, for this cause, in seced- 
ing from the Convention, and pursuing a course so extreme ? 
Far from it. Had they remained at the post of duty, like Vir- 
ginia and the other border States, it would have been impossi- 
ble that a candidate so obnoxious to them, on account of his 
principles, could have been nominated. The final result would 
probably then have been the nomination of some compromise 
candidate, which would have preserved the unity and strength 
of the Democratic organization. Indeed, the withdrawal of 
these States, under the circumstances, has afforded plausible 
ground for the belief of many, that this was done with a view to 
prepare the way for a dissolution of the Union. Although, 
from the votes and speeches of their delegates, there do not 
seem to be sufficient grounds for so harsh a judgment, yet it 
cannot be denied that the act was rash, unwise, and unfortunate. 

An entire new generation had now come upon the stage in 
the South, in the midst of the anti-slavery agitation.* The 
former generation, which had enjoyed the blessings of peace and 
security under the Constitution and the Union, had passed away. 
That now existing had grown up and been educated amid 
assaults upon their rights, and attacks from the North upon the 
domestic institution inherited from their fathers. Their post- 
offices had been perverted for the circulation of incendiary pic- 
tures and publications intended to excite the slaves to servile 
insurrection. In the North, the press, State Legislatures, anti- 
slavery societies, abolition lecturers, and above all the Christian 
pulpit, had been persistently employed in denouncing slavery as 


a sin, and rendering slaveholders odious. Numerous abolition 
petitions had been presented to Congress, from session to session, 
portraying slavery as a grievous sin against God and man. The 
Fugitive Slave Law enacted by the first Congress, as well as 
that of 1850, for the security of their property, had been nulli- 
fied by the Personal Liberty Acts of Northern Legislatures, and 
by the organized assistance afforded by abolitionists for the es- 
cape of their slaves. Wilmot provisos had been interposed to 
defeat their constitutional rights in the common Territories, and 
even after these rights had been affirmed by the Supreme Court, 
its decision had been set at naught not only by the Republican 
but by the Douglas party. " The irrepressible conflict" of Sen- 
ator Seward, and the Helper book, both portending the aboli- 
tion of slavery in the States, had been circulated broadcast 
among the people. And finally the desperate fanatic, John 
Brown, inflamed by these teachings, had invaded Yirginia, and 
murdered a number of her peaceful citizens, for the avowed 
purpose of exciting a servile insurrection ; and although he had 
expiated his crimes on the gallows, his memory was consecrated 
by the abolitionists, as though he had been a saintly martyr. 

In the midst of these perils the South had looked with hope 
to the action of the Democratic National Convention at Charles- 
ton, but in this they had been sadly disappointed. This series 
of events had inflamed the Southern mind with intense hostility 
against the North, and enabled the disunion agitators to prepare 
it for the final catastrophe. 

It was not until after the breaking up of the Democratic 
party at Charleston and Baltimore, that the masses, even in the 
cotton States, always excepting South Carolina, could be induced 
to think seriously of seceding from the Union. The border 
States, with Yirginia in the front rank, although much dissatis- 
fied with the course of events at the North, still remained true 
to the Federal Government. 

86 me. Buchanan's administeation 


The heresy of Secession — Originated in New England — Maintained by Josiah Quincy. 
and the Hartford Convention, by Mr. Rawle and Mr. John Quincy Adams, but 
opposed by the South — Southern Secession dates from South Carolina Nullifica- 
tion — Its character and history — The Compromise Tariff of 1833 — The Nullifiera 
agitate for Secession — Mr. Calhoun — Mr. Cobb against it — "Warnings of the Dem- 
ocratic party — They are treated with contempt — Secession encouraged by the 
Republicans — The Cotton States led to believe they would be allowed to depart 
in peace — President Buchanan warned them against this delusion. 

The alleged right of secession, or the right of one or more 
States to withdraw from the Union, is not a plant of Southern 
origin. On the contrary, it first sprung up in the North. At 
an early period after the formation of the Constitution, many 
influential individuals of New England became dissatisfied with 
the union between the Northern and Southern States, and were 
anxious to dissolve it. " This design," according to Mr. John 
Quincy Adams, " had been formed in the winter of 1803-4, im- 
mediately after and as a consequence of the acquisition of 
Louisiana." * This he disclosed to Mr. Jefferson, in the year 
1809. About the same time, to the confidential friends of Mr. 
Jefferson he " urged that a continuance of the embargo mucH 
longer would certainly be met by forcible resistance, supported 
by the Legislature and probably by the judiciary of the State 
[Massachusetts]. That to quell that resistance, if force should 
be resorted to by the Government, it would produce a civil war; 
and that, in that event, he had no doubt the leaders of the party 
would secure the cooperation with them of Great Britain. That 
their object was, and had been for several years, a dissolution of 

* Letter of Dec. 30, 1828, in reply to Harrison Grey Otis and others. Appendix 
to Randall's Life of Jefferson, vol. iii., p. 635. Vide also vol. iii., p. 295. 



the Union, and the establishment of a separate Confederation, 
he knew from unequivocal evidence, although not provable in a 
court of law ; and that in case of a civil war, the aid of Great 
Britain to effect that purpose would be assuredly resorted to, as 
it would be indispensably necessary to the design." 

Afterwards, in 1828, whilst President of the United States, 
he reaffirmed the statement made to Mr. Jefferson, and said : 
" That project, I repeat, had gone to the length of fixing upon a 
military leader for its execution ; and although the circumstances 
of the times never admitted of its execution, nor even of its 
full development, I had yet no doubt in 1808 and 1809, and 
have no doubt at this time, that it is the key of all the great 
movements of these leaders of the Federal party in ISTew Eng- 
land, from that time forward till its final catastrophe in the 
Hartford Convention." It is but fair to observe that these state- 
ments were denied by the parties implicated, but were still ad- 
hered to and again reaffirmed by Mr. Adams. 

In this connection we may cite the speech delivered by Mr. 
Josiah Quincy, a leading and influential Representative from 
Massachusetts, on the 14th January, 1811.* In this he boldly 
avows and defends both the right and the duty of States to 
separate from the Union, should Congress pass the bill then 
pending before them, " to enable the people of the Territory of 
Orleans to form a Constitution and State Government, and for 
the admission of such State [Louisiana] into the Union on an 
equal footing with the original States." 

He alleges " that the principle of this bill materially affects 
the liberties and rights of the whole people of the United States. 
To me it appears that it would justify a revolution in this coun- 
try, and that in no great length of time may produce it." He 
then proceeds to declare as follows : " If this bill passes, it is 
my deliberate opinion that it is virtually a dissolution of the 
Union ; that it will free the States from their moral obligation, 
and, as it will be the right of all, so it will be the duty of some, 
definitely to prepare for a separation, amicably if they can, vio- 
lently if they must." Upon being called to order for the utter- 

* Galea & Seaton's Annals of Congress, 1810-11, 3d session, p. 524. 

88 me. Buchanan's administration 

ance of this sentiment, lie repeated it and committed it to writing 
with his own hand. 

The violation of the Constitution involved in this bill was, 
according to Mr. Quincy, the admission into the Union of a 
State composed of foreign territory, which had been ontside of. 
the limits of the -United States when the Constitution was 
adopted. This, he contended, would result in a serious diminu- 
tion of the power and influence in the Federal Government, to 
which Massachusetts and the other old States were justly entitled. 

It is curious to observe that he justified a dissolution of the 
Union by the very same fallacy afterwards employed by the 
Southern secessionists, in applying to our Government a rule of 
construction applicable to mere private contracts. " Is there," 
said he, " a moral principle of public law better settled, or more 
conformable to the plainest suggestions of reason, than that the 
violation of a contract by one of the parties may be considered 
as exempting the other from its obligations % " * 

Thirty-five members united with Mr. Quincy in voting 
against this bill, but it passed the House by a vote of 77 to 36. 

"We shall not refer specially to the proceedings of the Hart- 
ford Convention, which assembled in December, 1814, during 
the existence of our last war with Great Britain. We may ob- 
serve generally, that this body manifested their purpose to dis- 
solve the Union, should Congress refuse to redress the grievances 
of which they complained. The peace, however, with Great 
Britain, terminated their action, and consigned them to lasting 
and well merited reproach. During this entire period the 
Southern people opposed and denounced all threats and efforts 
to dissolve the Union as treasonable, and during the war as giv- 
ing " aid and comfort " to the enemy. 

The right of secession found advocates afterwards in men of 
distinguished abilities and unquestioned patriotism. In 1825 it 
was maintained by Mr. William Eawle, of Philadelphia, an 
eminent and universally respected lawyer, in the 23d chapter 
of his " View of the Constitution of the United States." In 
speaking of him his biographer says, that " in 1791 he was ap- 
pointed District Attorney of the United States, by the Father 

* Gales & Seaton's Annals of Congress, 1810-11, 3d session, p. 577. 


of his country ; " and " the situation of Attorney General was 
more than once tendered to him by "Washington, but as often 
declined," for domestic reasons.* But to quote a still higher 
authority, that of Mr. John Quincy Adams. This learned 
and profound statesman, in 1839, admitted the right of the peo- 
ple of a State to secede from the Union, whilst deprecating its 
exercise. We copy entire the three paragraphs relating to this 
subject from his " Discourse delivered before the New York 
Historical Society," f on the fiftieth anniversary of General 
"Washington's Inauguration as President of the United States : 

" In the calm hours of self-possession, the right of a State to 
nullify an act of Congress, is too absurd for argument, and too 
odious for discussion. The right of a State to secede from the 
Union, is equally disowned by the principles of the Declaration 
of Independence. Nations acknowledge no judge between them 
upon earth, and their Governments, from necessity, must in their 
intercourse with each other decide when the failure of one party 
to a contract to perform its obligations, absolves the other from 
the reciprocal fulfilment of his own. But this last of earthly 
powers is not necessary to the freedom or independence of States, 
connected together by the immediate action of the people of 
whom they consist. To the people alone is there reserved, as 
well the dissolving, as the constituent power, and that power 
can be exercised by them only under the tie of conscience, bind- 
ing them to the retributive justice of Heaven. 

" "With these qualifications, we may admit the same right as 
vested in the people of every State in the Union, with reference 
to the General Government, which was exercised by the people 
of the United Colonies, with reference to the supreme head of 
the British empire, of which they formed a part ; and under 
these limitations have the people of each State in the Union a 
right to secede from the confederated Union itself. 

" Thus stands the BIGHT. But the indissoluble link of 
union between the people of the several States of this confed- 
erated nation is, after all, not in the right, but in the heart. If the 
day should ever come (may Heaven avert it) when the affections 
of the people of these States shall be alienated from each other ; 

* Brown's Forum, p. 505. f Pages 68, 69. 

90 me. Buchanan's administration 

when the fraternal spirit shall give way to cold indifference, or 
collision of interest shall fester into hatred, the bands of political 
association will not long hold together parties no longer attracted 
by the magnetism of conciliated interests and kindly sympathies ; 
and far better will it be for the people of the disunited States 
to part in friendship from each other, than to be held together 
by constraint. Then will be the time for reverting to the prece- 
dents which occurred at the formation and adoption of the Con- 
stitution, to form again a more perfect union, by dissolving that 
which could no longer bind, and to leave the separated parts to 
be reunited by the law of political gravitation to the centre." 

These high authorities in the North made no impression on 
the Southern people. Southern secession was the bitter fruit of 
South Carolina nullification. 

Nullification did not spring from the slavery question. It 
originated exclusively from hostility to a protective tariff. 
In the belief of the people of South Carolina, the tariff laws 
afforded extravagant and unconstitutional protection to domes- 
tic manufactures, greatly to their injury. They were convinced 
that the high import duties exacted from them enhanced un- 
justly the price of the articles they consumed, and at the same 
time depreciated the value of the cotton and other articles which 
they produced and exported ; and that all their losses were so 
many forced contributions to enrich Northern manufacturers at 
their expense. 

In this belief the people of the State were nearly unanimous; 
but they were almost equally divided as to whether nullification 
was an appropriate and constitutional remedy. Nullification 
assumes that each State has the rightful power to absolve itself 
from obedience to any particular law of Congress which it may 
deem oppressive, and to resist its execution by force ; and yet in 
regard to all other laws to remain a constituent member of the 
Union. Thus in each State, though still under the same Gen- 
eral Government, a different code might be in force, varying 
with every degree of latitude. This would produce " confusion 
worse confounded." Even secession can be sustained by much 
more plausible arguments than such a paradox. 

Mr. John C. Calhoun was the acknowledged leader of the 


Nullification party. As a member of the House of Representa- 
tives he had borne a conspicuous part in the declaration and 
prosecution of the war of 1812 against Great Britain. He 
had been Secretary of War during nearly the whole eight years 
of Mr. Monroe's Presidency, and had displayed great adminis- 
trative ability in organizing and conducting his Department. 
He was elected in 1824, and afterwards reelected in 1828, Vice- 
President of the United States, and still held this high office. 
He possessed eminent reasoning powers, but, in the opinion of 
many, was deficient in sound practical judgment. He was terse 
and astute in argument ; but his views were not sufficiently broad 
and expanded to embrace at the same time all the great inter- 
ests of the country, and to measure them according to their rela- 
tive importance. It was his nature to concentrate all his powers 
on a single subject ; and this, for the time being, almost to the ex- 
clusion of all others. Although not eloquent in debate, he was 
rapid, earnest, and persuasive. His powers of conversation were 
of the highest order ; and it was his delight to exert them in 
making proselytes, especially of the young and promising. It 
is but just to add that his private life was a model of purity. 

Under his auspices, the State Convention of South Carolina, 
in November, 1832, passed the well-known Nullification Ordi- 
nance. By this they declared that all the tariff acts then in 
force had been passed in violation of the Constitution of the 
United States ; and that they were " null, void, and no law, nor 
binding upon this State, its officers or citizens." They also 
ordained that should the Federal Government attempt to carry 
these acts into effect within the limits of South Carolina, " the 
people of this State will thenceforth hold themselves absolved 
from all further obligation to maintain or preserve their political 
connection with the people of the other States, and will forth- 
with proceed to organize a separate Government, and to do all 
other acts and things which sovereign and independent States 
of right do." * 

This declaration was the germ of Southern secession. It 
asserted the right and the duty of South Carolina to secede 
from the Union and establish an independent Government, 

* Con. Debates, yoI. ix., Part 2d, Appendix, pp. 162, 163. 

92 me. Buchanan's administration 

whenever the Federal Government should attempt to execute 
the tariff laws within its limits. 

At this period a large and influential minority, almost amount- 
ing to a majority of the people of South Carolina, were opposed 
to nullification. This party embraced the Federal judges, and 
the collectors and other revenue officers at the different ports. 
They did not believe nullification to be either a rightful or 
constitutional remedy for grievances, which notwithstanding 
they felt keenly in common with their fellow-citizens. So hos- 
tile did the parties become toward each other in the progress of 
the conflict, that there was imminent danger they might resort 
to civil war. The minority stood ready to aid the Government 
in enforcing the tariff laws against the nullifiers. 

The Convention, in their address to the people of the United 
States,* proposed terms of compromise, with which should Con- 
gress comply, South Carolina would lepeal the nullifying ordi- 
nance. Professing their willingness " to make a large offering to 
preserve the Union," f and distinctly declaring that it was a con- 
cession on their part, they proposed to consent to a tariff im- 
posing the same rate of duty on the protected as on the unpro- 
tected articles, " provided that no more revenue be raised than 
is necessary to meet the demands of the Government for con- 
stitutional purposes, and provided, also, that a duty substan- 
tially uniform be imposed upon all foreign imports." Thus their 
ultimatum was a uniform ad valorem horizontal tariff for reve- 
nue alone, without any discriminations whatever in favor of 
domestic manufactures. 

At this crisis Mr. Calhoun resigned the office of Vice-Presi- 
dent, and on the 12th December, 1832, took his seat in the Sen- 
ate as one of the Senators from South Carolina, for the purpose 
of advocating the measures he had advised. Strange to say, 
South Carolina substantially succeeded in accomplishing her 
object by the passage of the " Compromise Act " of 2d March, 
18334 Under it, Congress provided for a gradual reduction of 
existing duties on all foreign articles competing in the home 
market with our domestic manufactures, until they should finally 

* Con. Debates, vol. ix., Part 2d, Appendix, p. 168. 
t Page 172. % U. S. Statutes at Large, p. 629. 


sink, on the 30th June, 1842, to a uniform rate of 20 per cent, 
ad valorem, from and after which period this reduced duty only 
should be collected. Mr. Calhoun supported the bill and voted 
for its passage. South Carolina accepted the concession, and 
repealed the ordinance of nullification. 

Mr. Calhoun, notwithstanding this success, was never able 
to* indoctrinate the Southern people outside of his own State 
with the heresy of nullification. It soon became odious to the 
whole country, and has since passed into universal disrepute. 
But not so with its twin sister secession. 

Whilst these proceedings were pending, General Jackson was 
ready and willing to enforce the laws against South Carolina, 
should they be resisted, with all the means in his power. These 
were, however, inadequate for the occasion. New legislation 
was required to enable him to act with vigor and success. For 
this he applied to Congress in an elaborate message of the 16th 
January, 1833.* This was not granted until the passage of the 
" Compromise Act " had rendered such legislation unnecessary. 
In fact, this act and " the Force Bill," as it was then called, con- 
ferring on him the necessary powers, were approved by General 
Jackson on the same day (2d March, 1833). Such was, at this 
crisis, the jealousy of executive power in Congress, that the only 
effective enactments of this bill were to expire, by their own 
limitation, at the end of the next session of Congress (June, 
1834). Here it may be proper to observe, that Congress re- 
fused to revive them throughout the entire session of 1860-'61, 
and to confer upon President Buchanan the same powers for the 
collection of the revenue which they had, but only for this brief 
period, conferred on President Jackson. 

The majority in South Carolina, encouraged by success in 
bringing Congress to terms on the tariff question, and smarting 
under the reproach of nullification, soon threw aside all reserve 
and rushed from this heresy into that of secession. In this they 
were not long after joined by the minority* which had resisted 
nullification. The formidable aspect assumed by anti-slavery at 
the North consolidated the union between the nullifiers and the 
anti-nullmers. Then followed the exchange of violent and vir- 

* Congressional Debates, vol. ix., part 2d, Appendix, p. 145. 

94 me. Buchanan's administkation 

ulent denunciations between the slavery and anti-slavery fac- 
tions, North and South, each furnishing combustibles to the 
other, as though they had been in alliance to destroy the Union. 
Although the people of South Carolina had thus become al- 
most unanimous in their hostility to the Union, they were nev- 
ertheless divided into two parties, denominated " Disunionists " 
and " Cooperationists." Both were equally resolved on seces- 
sion ; they differed merely as to the point of time for making 
the movement. Whilst the former advocated immediate action 
by the State alone, the latter were in favor of awaiting the coop- 
eration of one or more of the other slaveholding States. 

The time-honored and Union-loving "Whig and Democratic 
parties no longer existed in South Carolina. They had passed 
away amid the din of disunion. Mr. Calhoun, from the termi- 
nation of nullification until the day of his death (31st March, 
1850), made the wrongs and dangers of the South his almost 
constant theme. These he much exaggerated. In his last 
great speech to the Senate,* on the 4th March, 1850, a few days 
before his death, which, from physical weakness, was read by 
Mr. Mason, the Senator from Virginia, he painted these wrongs 
in glowing colors, and predicted that if they were not speedily 
redressed disunion must inevitably follow. He asked the North 
"to do justice, by conceding to the South an equal right in, 
the acquired [Mexican] territory, and to do her duty by caus- 
ing the stipulations in regard to fugitive slaves to be faith- 
fully fulfilled ; to cease the agitation of the slave question," and 
to provide for such an amendment to the Constitution as would 
restore to the South the means of self-protection. It is worthy 
of remark, that, extreme as he was, he never, on any occasion, 
asked for a repeal of the Missouri Compromise. 

Although the earnest and impassioned appeals of Mr. Cal- 
houn made a deep impression on the people of the Southern 
States, yet outside of South Carolina these failed to convince 
the masses that they ought to resort to extreme measures. 
Whilst satisfied they were suffering grievous wrongs from the 
Abolitionists, they were yet willing to abide by the compromise 
measures of 1850, and to seek redress by constitutional efforts 

* Con. Globe, 1849-' 50, p. 451. 


within the Union. Such, it is our confident belief, continued to 
be the genuine sentiments of a very large majority of their peo- 
ple even in the cotton States for a number of years after the 
death of Mr. Calhoun. Still complaining, yet still hoping, they 
could not be persuaded to adopt rash measures, by all the zeal 
and eloquence of pro-slavery demagogues with which they were 

The friends of the Union calculated much upon the persist- 
ent opposition to South Carolina doctrines so long maintained 
by Georgia. Indeed Mr. Cobb, in his canvass for Governor, 
had made an able and powerful argument before the people of 
that State against the right of secession ; and this was a prin- 
cipal reason for his selection for a seat in the Cabinet of Mr. 
Buchanan. Without the cooperation of this great and influen- 
tial State a successful movement toward disunion would have 
been impracticable. 

It was not untij. after the breaking up of the Charleston and 
Baltimore Conventions, as we have before observed, that the 
people of the cotton States, having lost all hopes of security 
and redress within the Union, began seriously to determine to go 
out of it. By this time they had become thoroughly indoctri- 
nated with a belief in the right of secession ; and they began to 
think earnestly of putting it into practice. 

Throughout the Presidential canvass, the cotton States 
openly declared their purpose to secede should Mr. Lincoln be 
elected. In this they were now unfortunately in earnest. In 
ominous contrast with their former blustering, they now assumed 
a quiet and determined tone. No sound judging man, unless 
blinded by prejudice, could doubt their fixed resolution, unless 
the Republican party should concede their equal rights within 
the Territories ; should cease to assail slavery in the States ; 
should repeal the personal liberty laws of Northern Legislatures, 
and should fairly carry into execution the Fugitive Slave Laws. 
Besides, they felt confident of their power. Their territory was 
larger and contained a greater population than that of the thir- 
teen original States which had established their independence 
against the forces of the British Empire. They, also, hoped to 
bring the border slaveholding States, which still remained true 

96 me. Buchanan's administration 

to the Union, into their alliance. They knew that if invaded, 
the Northern armies, in order to reach them, must march 
through these States, which they hoped would deny a right of 
passage to the invaders. 

The Democratic party, justly appreciating the danger, every- 
where throughout the canvass warned their countrymen of its 
approach. The Republican party, on the other hand, treated 
these warnings as mere electioneering expedients, and in deris- 
ion ridiculed the Democrats as "Union savers." They confi- 
dently predicted that the threats of the cotton States would end 
in smoke, as they had ended heretofore ; that they would not 
dare to secede ; but even if they should, they could within a 
brief period be reduced to obedience by the overwhelming phys- 
ical power of the North. 

"With strange inconsistency, however, immediately after Mr. 
Lincoln's election much was said and written by Republicans in 
the North calculated to delude the cotton States into the belief 
that they might leave the Union without serious opposition. 
The New York " Tribune," deservedly their leading and most 
influential journal, giving tone to its party everywhere, contrib- 
uted much to encourage this delusion. It was doubtless actu- 
ated by hostility to a continued union with slaveholding States. 
Acting in the spirit of the quotation already made from the ora- 
tion of John Quincy Adams before the New York Historical 
Society, it on the 9th of November, but three days after Mr. 
Lincoln's election, announced such sentiments as the following : 
" If the cotton States shall become satisfied that they can do 
better out of the Union than in it, we insist on letting them go 
in peace. The right to secede may he a revolutionary one, but 
it exists nevertheless. * * * We must ever resist the 
right of any State to remain in the Union and nullify or aefy the 
laws thereof. To withdraw erom the Union is quite another 
matter; and whenever a considerable section of our Union 
shall deliberately resolve to go out, we shall resist all coer- 
cive measures designed to keep it in. We hope never to live 
in a Republic whereof one section is pinned to another by bay- 

And again on the 17th December, three days before the 


secession of South Carolina: "If it [the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence] justifies the secession from the British Empire of three 
millions of colonists in 1776, we do not see why it would not 
justify the secession of five millions of Southrons from the Fed- 
eral Union in 1861. If we are mistaken on this point, why 
does not some one attempt to show wherein and why ? For our 
own part, while we deny the right of slaveholders to hold 
slaves against the will of the latter, we cannot see how twenty 
millions of people can rightfully hold ten, or even five, in a de- 
tested Union with them by military force. * If 
seven or eight contiguous States shall present themselves authen- 
tically at Washington, saying, ' We hate the Federal Union ; we 
have , withdrawn from it ; we give you the choice between 
acquiescing in our secession and arranging amicably all inci- 
dental questions on the one hand and attempting to subdue us 
on the other,' we could not stand up for coercion, for subjuga- 
tion, for we do not think it would be just. "We hold the right 
of self-government even when invoiced in behalf of those who 
deny it to others. So much for the question of principle." 

In this course the " Tribune " persisted from the date of 
Mr. Lincoln's election until after his inauguration, employing 
such remarks as the following : " Any attempt to compel them 
by force to remain would be contrary to the principles enuncia- 
ted in the immortal Declaration of Independence, contrary to 
the fundamental ideas on which human liberty is based." 

Even after the cotton States had formed their confederacy, 
and adopted a provisional Constitution at Montgomery, on the 
23d February, 1861, it gave them encouragement to proceed in 
the following language : " We have repeatedly said, and we once 
more insist, that the great principle embodied by Jefferson in 
the Declaration of American Independence, that Governments 
derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, is 
sound and just ; and that if the Slave States, the Cotton States, 
or the Gulf States only, choose to form an independent nation, 
they have a clear moral right to do so. Whenever it shall 
be clear that the great body of Southern people have become con- 
clusively alienated from the Union, and anxious to escape from 


98 me. Buchanan's admtnisteation 

In a similar spirit, leading Republicans everywhere scorn- 
fully exclaimed, " Let them go ; " " We can do better without 
them ; " " Let the Union slide," and other language of the same 

In addition to all these considerations, the persistent refusal 
of Congress, from the first until the last hour of the session of 
1860-'61, to take a single step in preparing for armed resistance 
to the execution of the laws, served to confirm the cotton States 
in the opinion that they might " depart in peace." 

The people of the cotton States, unfortunately for themselves, 
were also infatuated with the belief, until the very last moment, 
that in case they should secede they would be sustained by a 
large portion if not the whole Democratic party of the North. 
They vainly imagined that this party, which had maintained 
their constitutional rights whilst they remained in the Union, 
would sustain them in rebellion after they had gone out of it. 
In this delusion they were also greatly encouraged by sympa- 
thy and support from influential and widely circulated Anti- 
Hepublican journals in the North, and especially in the city of 
New York. 

It was in vain, therefore, that the late President warned 
them, as he often did, against this delusion. It was in vain he 
assured them that the first cannon fired against either Fort 
Moultrie or Fort Sumter would arouse the indignant spirit of the 
North — would heal all political divisions amongst the Northern 
people, and would unite them as one man in support of a war 
rendered inevitable by such an act of rebellion. 



General Scott's "Views," and the encouragement they afforded to the cotton States 
to secede — Their publication by him in the "National Intelligencer" — His recom- 
mendation in favor of four distinct Confederacies —His recommendation to reen- 
force nine of the Southern forts, and the inadequacy of the troops — The reason 
of this inadequacy — The whole army required on the frontiers — The refusal of 
Congress to increase it — Our fortifications necessarily left without sufficient gar- 
risons for want of troops — The President's duty to refrain from any hostile act 
against the cotton States, and smooth the way to a compromise — The rights of 
those States in no danger from Mr. Lincoln's election — Their true policy was to 
cling to the Union. 

Such, since the period of Mr. Lincoln's election, having been 
the condition of the Southern States, the " Yiews " of General 
Scott, addressed before that event to the Secretary of War, on 
the 29th and 30th October, 1860, were calculated to do much 
injury in misleading the South. From the strange inconsisten- 
cies they involve, it would be difficult to estimate whether they 
did most harm in encouraging or in provoking secession. So 
far as they recommended a military movement, this, in order to 
secure success, should have been kept secret until the hour 
had v arrived for carrying it into execution. The substance of 
them, however, soon reached the Southern people. Neither the 
headquarters of the army at New York, nor afterwards in 
"Washington, were a very secure depository for the " Yiews," 
even had it been the author's intention to regard them as confi- 
dential. That such was not the case may be well inferred from 
their very nature. Not confined to the recommendation of a 
military movement, by far the larger portion of them consists 
of a political disquisition on the existing dangers to the Union ; 
on the horrors of civil war and the best means of averting so 
great a calamity ; and also on the course which their author had 

100 me. Buchanan's administeation 

resolved to pursue, as a citizen, in the approaching Presidential 
election. These were themes entirely foreign to a military re- 
port, and equally foreign from the official duties of the Com- 
manding General. Furthermore, the " Views " were published 
to the world by the General himself, on the 18th January, 1861, 
in the " National Intelligencer," and this withoiit the consent or 
even previous knowledge of the President. This was done at a 
critical moment in our history, when the cotton States were 
seceding one after the other. The reason assigned by him for 
this strange violation of official confidence toward the President, 
was the necessity for the correction of misapprehensions which 
had got abroad, u both in the public prints and in public speeches," 
in relation to the " Views." 

The General commenced his " Views " by stating that, " To 
save time the right of secession may be conceded, and instantly 
balanced by the correlative right on the part of the Federal 
Government against an interior State or States to reestablish 
by force, if necessary, its former continuity of territory." He 
subsequently explains and qualifies the meaning of this phrase 
by saying : " It will be seen that the ' Views ' only apply to a 
case of secession that makes a gap in the present Union. The 
falling off (say) of Texas, or of all the Atlantic States, from the 
Potomac South [the very case which has since occurred], was 
not within the scope of General Scott's provisional remedies." 
As if apprehending that by possibility it might be inferred he 
intended to employ force for any other purpose than to open 
the way through this gap to a State beyond, still in the Union, 
he disclaims any such construction, and says : " The foregoing 
views eschew the idea of invading a seceded State." This dis- 
claimer is as strong as any language he could employ for the 

To sustain the limited right to open the way through the 
gap, he cites, not the Constitution of the United States, but the 
last chapter of Paley's " Moral and Political Philosophy," which, 
however, contains no allusion to the subject. 

The General paints the horrors of civil war in the most 
gloomy colors, and then proposes his alternative for avoiding 
them. He exclaims : " But break this glorious Union by what- 


ever line or lines that political madness may contrive, and there 
would be no hope of reuniting the fragments except by the 
laceration and despotism of the sword. To effect such result the 
intestine wars of our Mexican neighbors would, in comparison 
with ours, sink into mere child's play. 

" A smaller evil " (in the General's opinion) " would be to 
allow the fragments of the great Republic to form themselves 
into new Confederacies, probably four." 

Not satisfied with this general proposition, he proceeds not 
only to discuss and to delineate the proper boundaries for these 
new Confederacies, but even to designate capitals for the three 
on this side of the Rocky Mountains. We quote his own lan- 
guage as follows : — " All the lines of demarcation between the 
new unions cannot be accurately drawn in advance, but many 
of them approximately may. Thus, looking to natural bounda- 
ries and commercial affinities, some of the following frontiers, 
after many waverings and conflicts, might perhaps become ac- 
knowledged and fixed : 

"1. The Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay to the 
Atlantic. 2. From Maryland along the crest of the Alleghany 
(perhaps the Blue Ridge) range of mountains to some point on 
the coast of Florida. 3. The line from, say the head of the 
Potomac to the West or Northwest, which it will be most diffi- 
cult to settle. 4. The crest of the Rocky Mountains." 

" The Southeast Confederacy would, in all human probability, 
in less than ^ve years after the rupture, find itself bounded by 
the first and second lines indicated above, the Atlantic and the 
Gulf of Mexico, with its capital at say Columbia, South Caro- 
lina. The country between the second, third, and fourth of 
those lines would, beyond a doubt, in about the same time con- 
stitute another Confederacy, with its capital at probably Alton 
or Quincy, Illinois. The boundaries of the Pacific Union are 
the most definite of all, and the remaining States would consti- 
tute the Northeast Confederacy, with its capital at Albany. It, 
at the first thought, will be considered strange that seven slave- 
holding States and part of Yirginia and Florida should be placed 
(above) in a new Confederacy with Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, etc. 
But when, the overwhelming weight of the great Northwest is 

102 me. Buchanan's administration 

taken in connection with the laws of trade, contiguity of terri- 
tory, and the comparative indifference to free soil doctrines on 
the part of Western Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mis- 
souri, it is evident that but little if any coercion, beyond moral 
force, would be needed to embrace them ; and I have omitted 
the temptation of the unwasted public lands which would fall 
entire to this Confederacy — an appanage (well husbanded) suffi- 
cient for many generations. As to Missouri, Arkansas, and 
Mississippi, they would not stand out a month. Louisiana 
would coalesce without much solicit ati<5h, and Alabama with 
West Florida would be conquered the first winter from the ab- 
solute need of Pensacola for a naval depot." 

According to this arrangement of General Scott, all that 
would be left for " the Northeast Confederacy " would be the 
New England and Middle States ; and our present proud Capi- 
tol at Washington, hallowed by so many patriotic associations, 
would be removed to Albany.* 

It is easy to imagine with what power these " Yiews," pre- 
sented so early as October, 1860, may have been employed by 
the disunion leaders of the cotton States to convince the people 
that they might depart in peace. Proceeding from the Com- 
manding General of the army, a citizen and a soldier so eminent, 
and eschewing as they did the idea of invading a seceded State, 
as well as favoring the substitution of new Confederacies for the 
old Union, what danger could they apprehend in the formation 
of a Southern Confederacy ? 

This portion of the " Views," being purely political and pros- 
pective, and having no connection with military operations, was 
out of time and out of place in a report from the Commanding 
General of the Army to the Secretary of War. So, also, the 
expression of his personal preferences among the candidates then 
before the people for the office of President. " From a sense 
of propriety as a soldier," says the General, " I have taken no 
part in the pending canvass, and, as always heretofore, mean to 

* It is worthy of special remark that General Scott in his autobiography recently 
published, vol. ii., p. 609, entirely omits to copy this part of his views on which we 
have been commenting; so also his supplementary views of the next day, though 
together they constitute but one whole. He merely copies that which relates to gar- 
risoning the Southern forts. 


stay away from the polls. My sympathies, however, are with 
the Bell and Everett ticket." 

After all these preliminaries, we now proceed to a different 
side of the picture presented by the General. 

In the same " Yiews " (the 29th October, 1860), he says that, 
" From a knowledge of our Southern population it is my solemn 
conviction that there is some danger of an early act of rashness 
preliminary to secession, viz., the seizure of some or all of the 
following posts :— Forts Jackson and St. Philip, in the Missis- 
sippi, below New Orleans, both without garrisons ; Fort Morgan, 
below Mobile, without a garrison ; Forts Pickens and M'Rea, 
Pensacola harbor, with an insufficient garrison for one ; Fort 
Pulaski, below Savannah, without a garrison ; Forts Moultrie 
and Sumter, Charleston harbor, the former with an insufficient 
garrison, and the latter without any ; and Fort Monroe, Hamp- 
ton Roads, without a sufficient garrison. In my opinion all 
these works should be immediately so garrisoned as to make any 
attempt to take any one of them by surprise or coup de main 

It was his duty, as commanding general, to accompany this 
recommendation with a practicable plan for garrisoning these 
forts, stating the number of troops necessary for. the purpose; 
the points from which they could be drawn, and the manner in 
which he proposed to conduct the enterprise. Finding this to 
be impossible, from the total inadequacy of the force within the 
President's power to accomplish a military operation so exten- 
sive, instead of furnishing such a plan he absolves himself from 
the task by simply stating in his supplemental views of the next 
day (30th October) that " There is one (regular) company at 
Boston, one here (at the Narrows), one at Pittsburg, one at 
Augusta, Ga., and one at Baton Rouge — in all five companies, 
only, within reach, to garrison or reenforce the forts mentioned 
in the ' Yiews.' " 

Five companies only, four hundred men, to garrison nine 
fortifications scattered over six highly excited Southern States. 
This was all the force " within reach " so as to make any attempt 
to take any one of them by surprise or coup de main ridicu- 

104 me. Buchanan's administration 

He even disparages the strength of this small force by apply- 
ing to it the diminutive adverb " only" or, in. other words, 
merely, barely. It will not be pretended that the President 
had any power, under the laws, to add to this force by calling 
forth the militia, or accepting the services of volunteers to gar- 
rison these fortifications. And the small regular army were be- 
yond reach on our remote frontiers. Indeed, the whole Ameri- 
can army, numbering at that time not more than sixteen thousand 
effective men, would have been scarcely sufficient. To have at- 
tempted to distribute these five companies among the eight forts 
in the cotton States, and Fortress Monroe, in Yirginia, would 
have been a confession of weakness, instead of an exhibition of 
imposing and overpowering strength. It could have had no 
effect in preventing secession, but must have done much to pro- 
voke it. It will be recollected that these views, the substance 
of which soon reached the Southern States, were written before 
Mr. Lincoln's election, and at a time when none of the cotton 
States had made the first movement toward secession. Even 
South Carolina was then performing all her relative duties, 
though most reluctantly, to the Government, whilst the border 
States, with Yirginia in the first rank, were still faithful and 
true to the Union. 

Under these circumstances, surely General Scott ought not 
to have informed them in advance that the reason why he had 
recommended this expedition was because, from his knowledge 
of them, he apprehended they might be guilty of an early act 
of rashness in seizing these forts before secession. This would 
necessarily provoke the passions of the Southern people. Yir- 
ginia was deeply wounded at the imputation against her loyalty 
from a native though long estranged son. 

Whilst one portion of the "Views," as we have already 
seen, might be employed by disunion demagogues in convincing 
the people of the cotton States that they might secede without 
serious opposition from the North, another portion of them was 
calculated to excite their indignation and drive them to extrem- 
ities. From the impracticable nature of the " Views," and their 
strange and inconsistent character, the President dismissed them 
from his mind without further consideration. 


It is proper to inform the reader why General Scott had five 
companies only within reach for the proposed service. This 
was because nearly the whole of our small army was on the 
remote frontiers, where it had been continually employed for 
years in protecting the inhabitants and the emigrants on their 
way to the far west, against the attacks of hostile Indians. At 
no former period had its services been more necessary than 
throughout the year 1860, from the great number of these In- 
dians continually threatening or waging war on our distant set- 
tlements. To employ the language of Mr. Benjamin Stanton, 
of Ohio, in his report of the 18th February, 1861, from the 
military committee to the House of Eepresentatives : " The 
regular army numbers only 18,000 men, when recruited to its 
maximum strength; and the whole of this force is required 
upon an extended frontier, for the protection of the border set- 
tlements against Indian depredations." Indeed, the whole of it 
had proved insufficient for this purpose. This is established by 
the reports of General Scott himself to the War Department. 
In these he urges the necessity of raising more troops, in a 
striking and convincing light. In that of 20th November, 
1857,* after portraying the intolerable hardships and sufferings 
of the army engaged in this service, he says : " To mitigate 
these evils, and to enable us to give a reasonable security to our 
people on Indian frontiers, measuring thousands of miles, I 
respectfully suggest an augmentation of at least one regiment 
of horse (dragoons, cavalry, or riflemen) and at least three regi- 
ments of foot (infantry or riflemen). This augmentation would 
not more than furnish the reinforcements now greatly needed 
in Florida, Texas, New Mexico, California, Oregon, Washington 
Territory, Kansas, Nebraska, and Minnesota, leaving not a com- 
pany for Utah." 

Again, General Scott, in his report of November 13, 1858, 
says : \ " This want of troops to give reasonable security to our 
citizens in distant settlements, including emigrants on the plains, 
can scarcely be too strongly stated ; but I will only add, that as 
often as we have been obliged to withdraw troops from one fron- 

* 3 Senate Documents, 1857-58, p. 48. 

t Senate Executive Documents, 1858-59, vol. ii., part 3, p. 761. 

106 mr. Buchanan's administration 

tier in order to reenforce another, the weakened points have 
been instantly attacked or threatened with formidable invasion." 

The President, feeling the force of such appeals, and urged 
by the earnest entreaties of the suffering people on the frontiers, 
recommended to Congress, through the War Department, to 
raise Hye additional regiments.* This, like all other recommen- 
dations to place the country in a proper state of defence, was 
disregarded. From what has been stated it is manifest that it 
was impossible to garrison the numerous forts of the United 
States with regular troops. This will account for the destitute 
condition of the nine forts enumerated by General Scott, as well 
as of all the rest. 

When our system of fortifications was planned and carried 
into execution, it was never contemplated to provide garrisons 
for them in time of peace. This would have required a large 
standing army, against which the American people have ever 
evinced a wise and wholesome jealousy. Every great repub- 
lic, from the days of Csesar to Cromwell, and from Cromwell 
to Bonaparte, has been destroyed by armies composed of free 
citizens, who had been converted by military . discipline into 
veteran soldiers. Our fortifications, therefore, when completed, 
were generally left in the custody of a sergeant and a few sol- 
diers. No fear was entertained that they would ever be seized 
by the States for whose defence against a foreign enemy they 
had been erected. 

Under these circumstances it became the plain duty of the 
President, destitute as he was of military force, not only to 
refrain from any act which might provoke or encourage the 
cotton States into secession, but to smooth the way for such a 
Congressional compromise as had in times past happily averted 
danger from the Union. There was good reason to hope this 
might still be accomplished. The people of the slaveholding 
States must have known there could be no danger of an actual 
invasion of their constitutional rights over slave property from 
any hostile action of Mr. Lincoln's administration. For the 
protection of these, they could rely both on the judicial and the 
legislative branches of the Government. The Supreme Court 

• * Senate Documents, 1857-58, vol. iii., p. 4. 


had already decided the Territorial question in their favor, and 
it was also ascertained that there would be a majority in both 
Houses of the first Congress of Mr. Lincoln's term, sufficient to 
prevent any legislation to their injury. Thus protected, it would 
be madness for them to rush into secession. 

Besides, they were often warned and must have known that 
by their separation from the free States, these very rights over 
slave property, of which they were so jealous, would be in greater 
jeopardy than they had ever been under the Government of the 
Union. Theirs would then be the only Government in Chris- 
tendom which had not abolished or was not in progress to 
abolish slavery. There would be a strong pressure from abroad 
against this institution. To resist this effectually would require 
the power and moral influence of the Government of the whole 
United States. They ought, also, to have foreseen, that if their 
secession should end in civil war, whatever might be the event, 
slavery would receive a blow from which it could never recover. 
The true policy, even in regard to the safety of their domestic 
institution, was to cling to the Union. 

108 me. Buchanan's administbation 


Mr. Lincoln's election to the Presidency — Its danger to the Union — Warnings of the 
President and his trying position — His policy in the emergency, and the reasons 
for it — His supreme object the preservation of the Union — Meeting of Congress, 
and the hostility of the two parties toward each other — The wrongs of the South — 
How rash and causeless would be rebellion in the Cotton States— The right of se- 
cession discussed and denied in the Message — The President's position defined — 
Question of the power to coerce a State — Distinction between the power to wage 
war against a State, and the power to execute the laws against individuals — Views 
of Senator (now President) Johnson, of Tennessee — President Buchanan's solemn 
appeal in favor of the Union — His estrangement from the secession leaders — Ces- 
sation of all friendly intercourse between him and them. 

On the 6th November, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected 
President of the United States, and immediately thereafter the 
Legislature of South Carolina passed an Act for the call of a 
Convention to carry the State out of the Union, calculating that 
by this precipitate violence she might force the other cotton 
States to follow in her lead. 

Every discerning citizen must now have foreseen serious dan- 
ger to the Union from Mr. Lincoln's election. After a struggle 
of many years, this had accomplished the triumph of the anti- 
slavery over the slaveholding States, and established two geo- 
graphical parties, inflamed with malignant hatred against each 
other, in despite of the warning voice of Washington. It at 
once became manifest that the apprehensions of civil war, aris- 
ing from this event, had proved as disastrous to the business of 
the country as if the struggle had actually commenced. Al- 
though the harvests of the year had been abundant, and com- 
merce and manufactures had never been more prosperous, terror 
and alarm everywhere prevailed. In the midst of all the ele- 
ments of prosperity, every material interest was at once greatly 


depressed. "With a sound currency in abundance, the price of 
all public securities fell in the market. The credit of the Fed- 
eral Government, which had before stood so high, was unable 
to resist the shock. The small necessary loans to meet the 
previous appropriations of Congress, could not be obtained 
except at ruinous rates. 

Throughout more than a quarter of a century the late Pres- 
ident, on every fitting occasion, had solemnly warned his coun- 
trymen of the approaching danger, unless the agitation in the 
North against slavery in the South should cease. Instead of 
this, it still continued to increase, year after year, with brief 
intervals only, until it has become at length the unhappy, though 
unjustifiable cause, perhaps the criminal pretext, for the seces- 
sion of eleven slaveholding States from the Confederacy. 

The President had less than four months to complete his 
term of office. The Democratic party, to which he owed his 
election, had been defeated, and the triumphant party had pur- 
sued his administration from the beginning with a virulence 
uncommon even in our history. His every act had been mis- 
represented and condemned, and he knew that whatever course 
he might pursue, he was destined to encounter their bitter hos- 
tility. No public man was ever placed in a more trying and 
responsible position. Indeed, it was impossible for him to act 
with honest independence, without giving offence both to the 
anti-slavery and secession parties, because both had been clearly 
in the wrong. In view of his position, and after mature reflec- 
tion, he adopted a system of policy to which ever afterward, 
during the brief remnant of his term, he inflexibly adhered. 
This he announced and explained in the annual message to 
Congress of the 3d December, 1860, and in the special message 
thereafter of the 8th January, 1861. 

The Cabinet was then composed of Lewis Cass, of Michi- 
gan, Secretary of State ; Howell Cobb, of Georgia, Secretary 
of the Treasury ; John B. Floyd, of Virginia, Secretary of 
"War ; Isaac Toucey, of Connecticut, Secretary of the Navy ; 
Jacob Thompson, of Mississippi, Secretary of the Interior ; Jo- 
seph Holt, of Kentucky, Postmaster-General, in the place of 

110 me. Buchanan's administration 

Aaron Y. Brown, of Tennessee, deceased ; and Jeremiah S. 
Black, of Pennsylvania, Attorney-General. 

The annual message throughout, before it was communicated 
to Congress, had been warmly approved by every member of 
the Cabinet, except so much of it as denied the right of seces- 
sion, and maintained the duty of defending the public property 
and collecting the revenue in South Carolina, to which Messrs. 
Cobb and Thompson objected. These having now become prac- 
tical questions of vital importance, both felt it would be impos- 
sible to remain in the Cabinet whilst holding opinions upon 
them in opposition to the known and settled convictions of the 
President. They accordingly resigned after the meeting of 
Congress, remaining in office for a brief period, to enable them 
to bring up and close the ordinary business of their respective 
departments, and thus clear the way for their successors. 

At this critical moment, and but nine days after Congress 
had assembled, General Cass, on the 12th December, 1860, re- 
signed the office of Secretary of State, notwithstanding the 
message had, but a few days before, elicited from him strong 
expressions of approbation. Of this resignation and the circum- 
stances preceding and following it, we forbear to speak, not 
doubting it proceeded at the moment from a sense of duty. 
Attorney-General Black was, in consequence, appointed Secre- 
tary of State, and the vacancy thereby created was filled by the 
appointment of Edwin M. Stanton as Attorney-General. 

Philip F. Thomas, formerly Governor of Maryland,- and 
then Commissioner of Patents, was appointed Secretary of the 
Treasury, in place of Mr. Cobb, who had resigned on the 8th 
December, but he did not long continue in office, having also 
resigned on the 11th January, 1861. The reason he assigned 
was a difference of opinion from the President and a majority 
of the Cabinet in regard to the measures which had been adopted 
against South Carolina, and the purpose of the President to 
enforce the collection of the customs at the port of Charleston, 
Immediately thereafter, the President tendered the appoint- 
ment of Secretary of the Treasury to General John A. Dix, of 
New York, which was, much to his satisfaction, promptly ac 


The Interior Department remained vacant after the retire- 
ment of Mr. Thompson, but its duties were ably and faithfully 
performed by Moses Kelly, the chief clerk, until the close of the 
administration. Upon Mr. Holt's transfer, late in December, 
1860, from the Post Office to the War Department, the first As- 
sistant Postmaster-General, Horatio King, of Maine, continued 
for some time to perform the duties of the Department in a 
highly satisfactory manner, when he was appointed Postmaster- 
General. After these changes the Cabinet consisted of Messrs. 
Black, Dix, Holt, Toucey, Stanton, and King, who all remained 
in office until the end of Mr. Buchanan's term. 

The President had earnestly desired that his Cabinet might 
remain together until the close of the administration. He felt 
sensibly the necessary withdrawal of some of its members, after 
all had been so long united in bonds of mutual confidence and 

The President's policy was, first and above all, to propose 
and urge the adoption of such a fair and honorable compro- 
mise as might prove satisfactory to all the States, both North 
and South, on the question of slavery in the Territories, the im- 
mediate and principal source of danger to the Union ; and should 
he fail to accomplish this object in regard to the seven cotton 
States, which there was too much cause to apprehend, then to 
employ all legitimate means to preserve and strengthen the 
eight remaining slave or border States in their undoubted loy- 
alty. These States, he knew, in case of need, might prove in- 
strumental in bringing back their erring sisters to a sense of 

To preserve the Union was the President's supreme object, 
and he considered it doubtful whether it could survive the shock 
of civil war. He was well aware that our wisest statesmen had 
often warned their countrymen, in the most solemn terms, that 
our institutions could not be preserved by force, and could only 
endure whilst concord of feeling, and a proper respect by one 
section for the rights of another, should be maintained. Mr. 
Madison in this spirit had observed, in the Federal Convention,* 

* June 8, 1787. Sup. to Elliot's Debates, vol. v., p. 171. 

112 me. Buchanan's administration 

that " Any Government for the United States, formed upon the 
supposed practicability of using force against the unconstitutional 
proceedings of the States, would prove as visionary and fallacious 
as the Government of [the old] Congress." And General Jack- 
son, a high authority, especially on such a subject, had declared 
in his Farewell Address* (3d March, 1837), that " the Constitu- 
tion cannot be maintained, nor the Union preserved, in opposi- 
tion to public feeling, by the mere exertion of the coercive 
powers confided to the General Government. The foundations 
must be laid in the affections of the people ; in the security it 
gives to life, liberty, character, and property, in every quarter 
of the country ; and in the fraternal attachments which the citi- 
zens of the several States bear to one another, as members of 
one political family, mutually contributing to promote the hap- 
piness of each other. Hence [in evident reference to the slavery 
agitation in the North] the citizens of every State should 
studiously avoid every thing calculated to wound the sensibility 
or offend the just pride of the people of other States ; and they 
should frown upon any proceedings within their own borders 
likely to disturb the tranquillity of their political brethren in 
other portions of the Union." 

The President, whilst admitting that Mr. Madison and Gen- 
eral Jackson may have erred in these opinions, was convinced 
that should a rebellion break out within the seven cotton States, 
this could not be overcome without a long and bloody war. 
From the character of our people and the history of our race, 
it was evident that such a war, on both sides, would be carried 
to desperate extremities. These seven States composed a con- 
tiguous territory of greater extent than the whole thirteen orig- 
inal States, and contained more than iive millions of people. 
To vanquish them would require a very large army and an im- 
mense sacrifice of kindred blood. No person acquainted with 
history could be blind to the danger to which our free institu- 
tions would be exposed from such an army. History had taught 
us that every great Republic had fallen a victim to military 
power. Besides, it was morally certain that should civil war 
actually commence, most if not all of the border States, though 

* 2 Statesman's Manual, 951. 


still adhering to the Union, would eventually be drawn into the 
conflict. To prosecute civil war would require an expenditure 
of hundreds of millions of dollars. This would entail an enor- 
mous debt on ourselves and our posterity, the interest on which 
could only be paid by oppressive taxation. The President knew 
that, in the mean time, many of the great commercial, manufac- 
turing, artisan, and laboring classes would be exposed to abso- 
lute ruin. It was therefore his supreme desire to employ all 
the constitutional means in his power to avert these impending 

In the midst of these portentous circumstances, both present 
and prospective, Congress met on the first Monday of December, 
1860, and the President on the next day transmitted to them 
his annual message. The opposing parties, instead of presenting 
the peaceful aspect becoming the Representatives of a great Con- 
federacy assembled to promote the various interests of their con- 
stituents, breathed nothing but mutual defiance. There was no 
longer any social or friendly intercourse between the Pro-Slavery 
and Anti- Slavery members. South Carolina had called a Con- 
vention for the avowed purpose of adopting a secession ordi- 
nance ; and the other cotton States were preparing to follow her 

Such was the situation at the meeting of Congress, and it 
was most unfortunate that but few individuals in the Northern 
States justly appreciated the extent and magnitude of the dan- 
ger. These facts stared every unprejudiced observer in the face. 
The danger was upon us, and how to remove it was a question 
for enlightened and patriotic statesmanship. The stake involved 
was no less than the peace and perpetuity of the Union. The 
evil could not be averted by any argument, however conclusive, 
against the right of a State peacefully to secede from the Union. 
This dangerous heresy had taken thorough possession of the 
Southern mind, and the seven cotton States were acting and 
preparing to act in accordance with it. There was but one 
mode of arresting their headlong career, and this was promptly 
to recognize their rights over slave property in the Territo- 
ries, as they existed under the decision of the Supreme Court. 
If the North should refuse to do this and reject any compro- 

114 me. Buchanan's administration 

mise, the secession of the cotton States would be inevitable. 
Apart from the factitious importance with which party spirit 
had invested the question, it was little more in point of fact than 
a mere abstraction. The recognition of the decision of the Su- 
preme Court on the part of Congress, would not have added a 
single slave or a single slave State to the number already exist- 
ing. The natural and irreversible laws of climate would prove 
an insurmountable barrier against the admission of any of our 
Territories as a slave State into the Union. 

The President, therefore, in his annual message of 3d Decem- 
ber, 1860, appealed to Congress to institute an amendment to the 
Constitution recognizing the rights of the Southern States in re- 
gard to slavery in the Territories. But before we proceed to 
give the history and the fate of this recommendation, it is neces- 
sary to revert to previous portions of the message, in which he 
endeavored to hold the balance fairly between the North and the 

And first in respect to the wrongs which the South had suf- 
fered, he says : " The long-continued and intemperate interfer- 
ence of the Northern people with the question of slavery in the 
Southern States, has at length produced its natural effects. The 
different sections of the Union are now arrayed against each 
other, and the time has arrived, so much dreaded by the Father 
of his Country, when hostile geographical parties have been 

" I have long foreseen, and often forewarned my country- 
men of the now impending danger. This does not proceed 
solely from the claim on the part of Congress or the Territorial 
Legislatures to exclude slavery from the Territories, nor from 
the efforts of different States to defeat the execution of the 
fugitive slave law. 

" All or any of these evils might have been endured by the 
South, without danger to the Union (as others have been), in the 
hope that time and reflection might apply the remedy. The im- 
mediate peril arises, not so much from these causes, as from the fact 
that the incessant and violent agitation of the slavery question 
throughout the North, for the last quarter of a century, has at 
length produced its malign influence on the slaves, and inspired 


them with vague notions of freedom. Hence a sense of security 
no longer exists around the family altar. This feeling of peace 
at home has given place to apprehensions of servile insurrections. 
Many a matron throughout the South retires at night in dread 
of what may befall herself and her children before the morning. 
Should this apprehension of domestic danger, whether real or 
imaginary, extend and intensify itself until it shall pervade the 
masses of the Southern people, then disunion will become inevi- 
table. Self-preservation is the first law of nature, and has been 
implanted in the heart of man by his Creator for the wisest pur- 
pose; and no political union, however fraught with blessings 
and benefits in all other respects, can long continue, if the neces- 
sary consequence be to render the homes and the firesides of 
nearly half the parties to it habitually and hopelessly insecure. 
Sooner or later the bonds of such a Union must be severed. It 
is my conviction that this fatal period has not yet arrived ; and 
my prayer to God is, that he would preserve the Constitution 
and the Union throughout all generations. 

" But let us take warning in time and remove the cause of 
danger. It cannot be denied that for five and twenty years the 
agitation at the North against slavery has been incessant. In 
1835, pictorial handbills and inflammatory appeals were circu- 
lated extensively throughout the South, of a character to excite 
the passions of the slaves, and, in the language of General Jack- 
son, ' to stimulate them to insurrection and produce all the 
horrors of a servile war.' 

" This agitation has ever since been continued by the public 
press, by the proceedings of State and County Conventions, and 
by abolition sermons and lectures. The time of Congress has 
been occupied in violent speeches on this never-ending subject; 
and appeals, in pamphlet and other forms, indorsed by distin- 
guished names, have been sent forth from this central point and 
spread broadcast over the Union. 

" How easy would it be for the American people to settle the 
slavery question forever, and to restore peace and harmony to 
this distracted country ! They, and they alone, can do it. All 
that is necessary to accomplish the object, and all for which the 
slave States have ever contended, is to be let alone and permit- 

116 me. Buchanan's administration 

ted to manage their domestic institutions in their own way. 
As sovereign States, they and they alone are responsible before 
God and the world for the slavery existing among them. For 
this the, people of the North are not more responsible, and have 
no more right to interfere, than with similar institutions in Rus- 
sia or in Brazil. Upon their good sense and patriotic forbear- 
ance, I confess, I still greatly rely. Without their aid it is be- 
yond the power of any President, no matter what may be his 
own political proclivities, to restore peace and harmony among 
the States. Wisely limited and restrained as is his power under 
our Constitution and laws, he alone can accomplish but little 
for good or for evil on such a momentous question." 

The President then proceeded to show how rash and cause- 
less would be the action of the cotton States, should they rise 
in revolutionary resistance against the Federal Government, at 
a time when their rights were in no real danger, either from the 
election or administration of Mr. Lincoln. He says : " And 
this brings me to observe, that the election of any one of our 
fellow-citizens to the office of President does not of itself afford 
just cause for dissolving the Union. This is more especially 
true if his election has been effected by a mere plurality and 
not a majority of the people, and has resulted from transient 
and temporary ,causes, which may probably never again occur. 
In order to justify a resort to revolutionary resistance, the Fed- 
eral Government must be guilty of ' a deliberate, palpable, and 
dangerous exercise ' of powers not granted by the Constitution. 
The late Presidential election, however, has been held in strict 
conformity with its express provisions. How, then, can the 
result justify a revolution to destroy this very Constitution ? 
Reason, justice, a regard for the Constitution, all require that 
we shall wait for some overt and dangerous act on the part of 
the President elect, before resorting to such a remedy. It is 
said, however, that the antecedents of the President elect have 
been sufficient to justify the fears of the South that he will at- 
tempt to invade their constitutional rights. But are such appre- 
hensions of contingent danger in the future sufficient to justify 
the immediate destruction of the noblest system of government 
ever devised by mortals ? From the very nature of his office, 


and its high responsibilities, he must necessarily be conserva- 
tive. The stern duty of administering the vast and complicated 
concerns of this Government, affords in itself a guarantee that 
he will not attempt any violation of a clear constitutional 

" After all, he is no more than the chief executive officer of 
the Government. His province is not to make but to execute 
the laws, and it is a remarkable fact in our history that, not- 
withstanding the repeated efforts of the Anti-Slavery party, no 
single act has ever passed Congress, unless we may possibly ex- 
cept the Missouri Compromise, impairing in the slightest degree 
the rights of the South to their property in slaves. And it 
may also be observed, judging from present indications, that no 
probability exists of the passage of such an act by a majority 
of both Houses, either in the present or the next Congress. 
Surely, under these circumstances, we ought to be restrained 
from present action by the precept of Him who spake as man 
never spoke, that ' sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.' 
The day of evil may never come unless we shall rashly bring it 
upon ourselves. 

" It is alleged as one cause for immediate secession, that the 
Southern States are denied eqilal rights with the other States in 
the common Territories. But by what authority are these de- 
nied? Not by Congress, which has never passed, and I believe 
never will pass, any act to exclude slavery from these Territories. 
And certainly not by the Supreme Court, which has solemnly 
decided that slaves are property, and like all other property 
their owners have a right to take them into the common Ter- 
ritories and hold them there under the protection of the Consti- 

" So far, then, as Congress is concerned, the objection is not 
to any thing they have already done, but to what they may do 
hereafter. It will surely be admitted that this apprehension of 
future danger is no good reason for an immediate dissolution of 
the Union. It is true that the Territorial Legislature of Kansas, 
on the 23d February, 1860, passed in great haste an act over the 
veto of the governor, declaring that slavery ' is and shall be for 
ever prohibited in this Territory.' Such an act, however, plainly 

118 me. Buchanan's administration 

violating the rights of property secured by the Constitution, will 
surely be declared void by the judiciary, whenever it shall be 
presented in a legal form. 

" Only three days after my inauguration the Supreme Court 
of the United States solemnly adjudged that this power did not 
exist in a Territorial Legislature. Yet such has been the factious 
temper of the times that the correctness of this decision has been 
extensively impugned before the people, and the question has 
given rise to angry political conflicts throughout the country. 
Those who have appealed from this judgment of our highest 
constitutional tribunal to popular assemblies, would, if they 
could, invest a Territorial Legislature with power to annul the 
sacred rights of property. This power Congress is expressly 
forbidden by the Federal Constitution to exercise. Every State 
Legislature in the Union is forbidden by its own Constitution to 
exercise it. It cannot be exercised in any State except by the 
people in their highest sovereign capacity when framing or 
amending their State Constitution. In like manner it can only 
be exercised by the people of a Territory, represented in a con- 
vention of delegates for the purpose of framing a constitution 
preparatory to admission as a State into the Union. Then, 
and not until then, are they invested with power to decide the 
question whether slavery shall or shall not exist within their 
limits. This is an act of sovereign authority and not of subor- 
dinate territorial legislation. Were it otherwise, then indeed 
would the equality of the States in the Territories be destroyed, 
and the rights of property in slaves would depend not upon the 
guarantees of the Constitution, but upon the shifting majorities 
of an irresponsible Territorial Legislature. Such a doctrine, from 
its intrinsic unsoundness, cannot long influence any considera- 
ble portion of our people, much less can it afford a good reason 
for a dissolution of the Union. 

"The most palpable violations of constitutional duty which 
have yet been committed consist in the acts of different State 
Legislatures to defeat the execution of the fugitive slave law. It 
ought to be remembered, however, that for these acts neither 
Congress nor any President can justly be held responsible. 
Having been passed in violation of the Federal Constitution, 


they are therefore null and void. All the courts, both State and 
national, before whom the question has arisen, have, from the 
beginning, declared the fugitive slave law to be constitutional. 
The single exception is that of a State court in Wisconsin ; and 
this has not only been reversed by the proper appellate tribunal, 
but has met with such universal reprobation, that there can be 
no danger from it as a precedent. The validity of this law has 
been established over and over again by the Supreme Court of 
the United States with perfect unanimity. It is founded upon 
an express provision of the Constitution, requiring that fugitive 
slaves who escape from service in one State to another shall be 
'delivered up' to their masters. Without this provision it is a 
well-known historical fact that the Constitution itself could never 
have been adopted by the Convention. In one form or other 
under the acts of 1793 and 1850, both being substantially the 
same, the fugitive slave law has been the law of the land from 
the days of Washington until the present moment. Here, then, 
a clear case is presented, in which it will be the duty of the next 
President, as it has been my own, to act with vigor in executing 
this supreme law against the conflicting enactments of State 
Legislatures. Should he fail in the performance of this high 
duty, he will then have manifested a disregard of the Constitu- 
tion and laws, to the great injury of the people of nearly one- 
half of the States of the Union. But are we to presume in 
advance that he will thus violate his duty ? This would be at 
war with every principle of justice and of Christian charity. 
Let us wait for the overt act. The fugitive slave law has been 
carried into execution in every contested case since the com- 
mencement of the present administration ; though often, it is to 
be regretted, with great loss and inconvenience to the master, 
and with considerable expense to the Government. Let us 
trust that the State Legislatures will repeal their unconstitu- 
tional and obnoxious enactments. Unless this shall be done 
without unnecessary delay, it is impossible for any human power 
to save the Union. 

"The Southern States, standing on the basis of the Constitu- 
tion, have a right to demand this act of justice from the States 
of the North. Should it be refused, then the Constitution, to 

120 mr. Buchanan's administration 

which all the States are parties, will have been wilfully violated 
by one portion of them in a provision essential to the domestic 
security and happiness of the remainder. In that event, the 
injured States, after having first used all peaceful and constitu- 
tional means to obtain redress, would be justified in revolution- 
ary resistance to the Government of the Union." 

Having thus disposed of the question of revolutionary re- 
sistance, the message proceeds to discuss the right of peaceful 
secession from the Union claimed by the Southern States in 
their sovereign character. It proceeds : 

" I have purposely confined my remarks to revolutionary re- 
sistance, because it has been claimed within the last few years 
that any State, whenever this shall be its sovereign will and 
pleasure, may secede from the Union in accordance with the 
Constitution, and without any violation of the constitutional 
rights of the other members of the Confederacy. That as each 
became parties to the Union by the vote of its own people 
assembled in convention, so any one of them may retire from 
the Union in a similar manner by the vote of such a conven- 

" In order to justify secession as a constitutional remedy, it 
must be on the principle that the Federal Government is a mere 
voluntary association of States, to be dissolved at pleasure by 
any one of the contracting parties. If this be so, the Confed- 
eracy is a rope of sand, to be penetrated and dissolved by the 
first adverse wave of public opinion in any of the States. In 
this manner our thirty-three States may resolve themselves into 
as many petty, jarring, and hostile republics, each one retiring 
from the Union without responsibility whenever any sudden ex- 
citement might impel them to such a course. By this process 
a Union might be entirely broken into fragments in a few weeks, 
which cost our forefathers many years of toil, privation, and 
blood to establish. 

" Such a principle is wholly inconsistent with the history as 
well as the character of the Federal Constitution. After it was 
framed with the greatest deliberation and care, it was submitted 
to conventions of the people of the several States for ratification. 
Its provisions were discussed at length in these bodies, com- 


posed of the first men of the country. Its opponents contended 
that it conferred powers upon the Federal Government danger- 
ous to the rights of the States, whilst its advocates maintained 
that, under a fair construction of the instrument, there was no 
foundation for such apprehensions. In that mighty struggle 
between the first intellects of this or any other country, it never 
occurred to any individual, either among its opponents or advo- 
cates, to assert or even to intimate that their efforts were all vain 
labor, because the moment that any State felt herself aggrieved 
she might secede from the Union. What a crushing argument 
would this have proved against those who dreaded that the rights 
of the States would be endangered by the Constitution. The 
truth is, that it was not until some years after the origin of. the 
Federal Government that such a proposition was first advanced. 
It was afterwards met and refuted by the conclusive arguments of 
General Jackson, who, in his message of the 16th January, 1833, 
transmitting the nullifying ordinance of South Carolina to Con- 
gress, employs the following language : ' The right of the peo- 
ple of a single State to absolve themselves at will and without 
the consent of the other States from their most solemn obliga- 
tions, and hazard the liberty and happiness of the millions com- 
posing this Union, cannot be acknowledged. Such authority 
is believed to be utterly repugnant both to the principles upon 
which the General Government is constituted, and to the objects 
which it was expressly formed to attain.' 

" It is not pretended that any clause in the Constitution 
gives countenance to such a theory. It is altogether founded 
upon inference, not from any language contained in the instru- 
ment itself, but from the sovereign character of the several 
States by which it was ratified. But is it beyond the power of 
a State, like an individual, to yield a portion of its sovereign 
rights to secure the remainder ? In the language of Mr. Madi- 
son, who has been called the father of the Constitution, i It was 
formed by the States — that is, by the people in each of the 
States acting in their highest sovereign capacity, and formed 
consequently by the same authority which formed the State 
constitutions.' ' Nor is the Government of the United States, 
created by the Constitution, less a Government, in the strict 

122 mk. Buchanan's administration 

sense of the term, within the sphere of its powers, than the 
governments created by the constitutions of the States are 
within their several spheres. It is, like them, organized into 
legislative, execntive, and judiciary departments. It operates, 
like them, directly on persons and things ; and, like them, it 
has at command a physical force for executing the powers com- 
mitted to it.' 

" It was intended to he perpetual, and not to be annulled at 
the pleasure of any one of the contracting parties. The old 
Articles of Confederation were entitled ' Articles of Confedera- 
tion and Perpetual Union between the States ; ' and by the thir- 
teenth article it is expressly declared that ' the articles of this 
confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and 
the Union shall be perpetual.' The preamble to the Constitu- 
tion of the United States, having express reference to the Arti- 
cles of Confederation, recites that it was established 'in order to 
form a more perfect union.' And yet it is contended that this 
' more perfect union ' does not include the essential attribute of 

" But that the Union was designed to be perpetual, appears 
conclusively from the nature and extent of the powers conferred 
by the Constitution on the Federal Government. These powers 
embrace the very highest attributes of national sovereignty. 
They place both the sword and the purse under its control. 
Congress has power to make war and to make peace ; to raise 
and support armies and navies, and to conclude treaties with 
foreign governments. It is invested with the power to coin 
money, and to regulate the value thereof, and to regulate com- 
merce with foreign nations and among the several States. It is 
not necessary to enumerate the other high powers which have 
been conferred upon the Federal Government. In order to 
carry the enumerated powers into effect, Congress possesses the 
exclusive right to lay and collect duties on imports, and, in com- 
mon with the States, to lay and collect all other taxes. 

"But the Constitution has not only conferred these high 
powers upon Congress, but it has adopted effectual means to 
restrain the States from interfering with their exercise. For 
that purpose it has in strong prohibitory language expressly de- 


clared that 'no State shall enter into any treaty, alliance, 
or confederation ; grant letters of marque and reprisal ; coin 
money ; emit bills of credit ; make any thing but gold and sil- 
ver coin a tender in payment of debts ; pass any bill of attain- 
der, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of con- 
tracts.' Moreover, ' without the consent of Congress no State 
shall lay any imposts or duties on any imports or exports, ex- 
cept what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspec- 
tion laws,' and if they exceed this amount, the excess shall be- 
long to the United States. And ' no State shall, without the 
consent of Congress, lay «any duty of tonnage, keep troops or 
ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or com- 
pact with another State, or with a foreign power, or engage in 
war, unless actually invaded or in such imminent danger as will 
not admit of delay.' 

" In order still further to secure the uninterrupted exercise 
of these high powers against State interposition, it is provided 
' that this Constitution and the laws of the United States which 
shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made or 
which shall be made under the authority of the United States, 
shall be the supreme law of the land ; and the judges in every 
State shall be bound thereby, any thing in the Constitution or 
laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.' 

" The solemn sanction of religion has been superadded to 
the obligations of official duty, and all Senators and Represent- 
atives of the United States, all members of State Legislatures, 
and all executive and judicial officers, 'both of the United 
States and of the several States, shall be bound by oath or affir- 
mation to support this Constitution.' 

'" In order to carry into effect these powers, the Constitution 
has established a perfect Government in all its forms, legislative, 
executive, and judicial ; and this Government to the extent of 
its powers acts directly upon the individual citizens of every 
State, and executes its own decrees by the agency of its own 
officers. In this respect it diners entirely from the Government 
under the old confederation, which was confined to making 
requisitions on the States in their sovereign character. This left 
it in the discretion of each whether to obey or to refuse, and 

124 mk. Buchanan's administration 

they often declined to comply with such requisitions. It thus 
became necessary, for the purpose of removing this barrier, and 
' in order to form a more perfect union,' to establish a Govern- 
ment which could act directly upon the people and execute its 
own laws without the intermediate agency of the States. This 
has been accomplished by the Constitution of the United States. 
In short, the Government created by the Constitution, and de- 
riving its authority from the sovereign people of each of the 
several States, has precisely the same right to exercise its power 
over the people of all these States in the enumerated cases, that 
each one of them possesses over subjects not delegated to the 
United States, but ' reserved to the States respectively or to the 

" To the extent of the delegated powers the Constitution of 
the United States is as much a part of the constitution of each 
State, and is as binding upon its people, as though it had been 
textually inserted therein. 

" This Government, therefore, is a great and powerful Gov- 
ernment, invested with all the attributes of sovereignty over the 
special subjects to which its authority extends. Its framers 
never intended to implant in its bosom the seeds of its own 
destruction, nor were they at its creation guilty of the absurdity 
of providing for its own dissolution. It was not intended by its 
framers to be the baseless fabric of a vision, which, at the touch 
of the enchanter, would vanish into thin air, but a substantial 
and mighty fabric, capable of resisting the slow decay of time, 
and of defying the storms of ages. Indeed, well may the jeal- 
ous patriots of that day have indulged fears that a Government 
of such high powers might violate the reserved rights of the 
States, and wisely did they adopt the rule of a strict construc- 
tion of these powers to prevent the danger. * But they did not 
fear, nor had they any reason to imagine that the Constitution 
would ever be so interpreted as to enable any State by her own 
act, and without the consent of her sister States, to discharge 
her people from all or any of their federal obligations. 

" It may be asked, then, are the people of the States with- 
out redress against the tyranny and oppression of the Federal 
Government ? By no means. The right of resistance on the 


part of the governed against the oppression of their govern- 
ments cannot be denied. It exists independently of all consti- 
tutions, and has been exercised at all periods of the world's his- 
tory. Under it, old governments have been destroyed and new 
ones have taken their place. It is embodied in strong and ex- 
press language in our own Declaration of Independence. But the 
distinction must ever be observed that this is revolution against 
an established Government, and not a voluntary secession from 
it by virtue of an inherent constitutional right. In short, let 
us look the danger fairly in the face ; secession is neither more 
nor less than revolution. It may or it may not be a justifiable 
revolution ; but still it is revolution." 

The President having thus attempted to demonstrate that 
the Constitution affords no warrant for secession, but that this 
was inconsistent both with its letter and spirit, then defines his 
own position. He says : 

"What, in the mean time, is the responsibility and true posi- 
tion of the Executive ? He is bound by solemn oath, before 
God and the country, < to take care that the laws be faithfully 
executed,' and from this obligation he cannot be absolved by 
any human power. But what if the performance of this duty, 
in whole or in part, has been rendered impracticable by events 
over which he could have exercised no control ? Such, at the 
present moment, is the case throughout the State of South Car- 
olina, so far as the laws of the United States to secure the ad- 
ministration of justice by means of the Federal judiciary are 
concerned. All the Federal officers within its limits, through 
whose agency alone these laws can be carried into execution, 
have already resigned. "We no longer have a district judge, a 
district attorney, or a marshal in South Carolina. In fact, the 
whole machinery of the Federal Government necessary for the 
distribution of remedial justice among the people has been 
demolished, and it would be difficult, if not impossible, to re- 
place it. 

" The only acts of Congress on the statute book bearing 
upon this subject are those of the 28th February, 1795, and 3d 
March, 1807. These authorize the President, after he shall 
have ascertained that the marshal, with his posse comitates, is 

126 me. Buchanan's administration 

unable to execute civil or criminal process in any particular 
case, to call forth the militia and employ the army and navy to 
aid him in performing this service, having first by proclamation 
commanded the insurgents ' to disperse and retire peaceably to 
their respective abodes within a limited time.' This duty can- 
not by possibility be performed in a State where no judicial 
authority exists to issue process, and where there is no marshal 
to execute it, and where, even if there were such an officer, the 
entire population would constitute one solid combination to 
resist him. 

" The bare enumeration of these provisions proves how inad- 
equate they are without further legislation to overcome a united 
opposition in a single State, not to speak of other States who 
may place themselves in a similar attitude. Congress alone has 
power to decide whether the present laws can or cannot be 
amended so as to carry out more effectually the objects of the 

" The same insuperable obstacles do not lie in the way of 
executing the laws for the collection of the customs. The reve- 
nue still continues to be collected, as heretofore, at the custom- 
house in Charleston, and should the collector unfortunately re- 
sign, a successor may be appointed to perform this duty. 

" Then, in regard to the property of the United States in 
South Carolina. This has been purchased for a fair equivalent, 
' by the consent of the Legislature of the State,' ' for the erec- 
tion of forts, magazines, arsenals,' &c, and over these the au- 
thority ' to exercise exclusive legislation ' has been expressly 
granted by the Constitution to Congress. It is not believed 
that any attempt will be made to expel the United States from 
this property by force ; but if in this I should prove to be mis- 
taken, the officer in command of the forts has received orders 
to act strictly on the defensive. In such a contingency the re- 
sponsibility for consequences would rightfully rest upon the 
heads of the assailants. 

" Apart from the execution of the laws, so far as this may be 
practicable, the Executive has no authority to decide what shall 
be the relations between the Federal Government and South 
Carolina. He has been invested with no such discretion. He 


possesses do power to change the relations heretofore existing 
between them, much less to acknowledge the independence of 
that State. This would be to invest a mere executive officer 
with the power of recognizing the dissolution of the Confeder- 
acy among our thirty-three sovereign States. It bears no resem- 
blance to the recognition of a foreigp. de facto Government, in- 
volving no such responsibility. Any attempt to do this would, 
on his part, be a naked act of usurpation. It is, therefore, my 
duty to submit to Congress the whple question in all its bear- 

Then follows the opinion expressed in the message, that the 
Constitution has conferred no power on the Federal Govern- 
ment to coerce a State to remain in the Union. The following 
is the language : " The question fairly stated is, ' Has the Con- 
stitution delegated to Congress the power to coerce a State into 
submission which is attempting to withdraw, or has actually 
withdrawn from the Confederacy % ' If answered in the affirma- 
tive, it must be on the principle that the power has been con- 
ferred upon Congress to make war against a State. 

" After much serious reflection, I have arrived at the conclu- 
sion that no such power has been delegated to Congress or to 
any other department of the Federal Government. It is mani- 
fest, upon an inspection of the Constitution, that this is not 
among the specific and enumerated powers granted to Congress ; 
and it is equally apparent that its exercise is not i necessary and 
proper for carrying into execution ' any one of these powers. 
So far from this power having been delegated to Congress, it 
was expressly refused by the Convention which framed the Con- 

" It appears from the proceedings of that body that on the 
31st May, 1787, the clause c authorizing an exertion of the force 
of the whole against a delinquent State ' came up for considera- 
tion. Mr. Madison opposed it in a brief but powerful speech, 
from which I shall extract but a single sentence. He observed : 
6 The use of force against a State would look more like a decla- 
ration of war than an infliction of punishment, and would proba- 
bly be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all 
previous compacts by which it might be bound.' Upon his mo- 


128 me. Buchanan's administration 

tion the clause was unanimously postponed, and was never, I 

believe, again presented. Soon afterwards, on the 8th June, 
1787, when incidentally adverting to the subject, he said : ' Any 
government for the United States, formed on the supposed prac- 
ticability of using force against the unconstitutional proceedings 
of the States, would prove as visionary and fallacious as the gov- 
ernment of Congress,' evidently meaning the then existing Con- 
gress of the old confederation." 

The Republican party have severely but unjustly criticized 
this portion of the message, simply because they have not chosen 
to take the distinction between the power to make war against 
a State in its sovereign character, and the undoubted power to 
enforce the laws of Congress directly against individual citizens 
thereof within its limits. It was chiefly to establish this very 
distinction that the Federal Constitution was framed. The 
Government of the old Confederation could act only by requisi- 
tions on the different States, and these, as we have seen, obeyed 
or disobeyed according to their own discretion. In case of dis- 
obedience, there was no resort but to actual force against them, 
which would at once have destroyed the Confederacy. To re- 
move the necessity for such a dangerous alternative, the present 
Constitution, passing over the Governments of the States, con- 
ferred upon the Government of the United States the power to 
execute its own laws directly against their people. Thus all 
danger of collision between the Federal and State authorities 
was removed, and the indissoluble nature of the Federal Union 
established. The Republican party have, notwithstanding, con- 
strued the message to mean a denial by the President of the 
power to enforce the laws against the citizens of a State after 
secession, and even after actual rebellion. The whole tenor, not 
only of this message, but of the special message of the 8th Jan- 
uary, 1861, contradicts and disproves this construction. Indeed, 
in the clause of the first, immediately preceding that relied 
upon, and whilst South Carolina was rapidly rushing to seces- 
sion, he expressed his determination to execute the revenue laws 
whenever these should be resisted, and to defend the public 
property against all assaults. And in the special message, after 
South Carolina and other States had seceded, he reiterated this 



declaration, maintaining both his right and his duty to employ 
military force for this purpose. Having proved secession to be 
a mere nullity, he considered the States which had seceded to 
be still within the Union, and their people equally bound as 
they had been before to obey the laws. 

The Disunionists, unlike the Republicans, placed the correct 
construction upon both messages, and therefore denounced them 
in severe terms. 

The President was gratified to observe that Senator Johnson, 
of Tennessee, a few days after the date of the first message, 
placed this subject in its true light, and thereby exposed him- 
self to similar denunciations. In his speech of 18th December, 
1860 ("Congressional Globe," p. 119), he says : "I do not be- 
lieve the Federal Government has the power to coerce a State, 
for by the eleventh amendment of the Constitution of the United 
States it is expressly provided that you cannot even put one of 
the States of this Confederacy before one of the courts of the 
country as a party. As a State, the Federal Government has no 
power to coerce it ; but it is a member of the compact to which 
it agreed in common with the other States, and this Government 
has the right to pass laws, and to enforce those laws upon indi- 
viduals within the limits of each State. While the one propo- 
sition is clear, the other is equally so. This Government can, 
by the Constitution of the country, and by the laws enacted in 
conformity with the Constitution, operate upon individuals, and 
has the right and the power, not to coerce a State, but to enforce 
and execute the law upon individuals within the limits of a 

Sound doctrine, and in conformity with that of the framersof 
the Constitution ! Any other might, according to Mr. Madison, 
have been construed by the States in rebellion as a dissolution 
of their connection with the other States, and recognized them 
as independent belligerents on equal terms with the United 
States. Happily our civil war was undertaken and prosecuted in 
self-defence, not to coerce a State, but to enforce the execution 
of the laws within the States against individuals, and to suppress 
an unjust rebellion raised by a conspiracy among them against 
the Government of the United States. 

130 mk. Buchanan's administration 

After an impartial review of all the circumstances, and a 
careful consideration of the danger of the crisis, the President 
determined to recommend to Congress to initiate such amend- 
ments to the Constitution as would recognize and place be- 
yond dispute the rights of the Southern people, as these had 
been expounded by the Supreme Court. Whilst acknowledging 
that the cotton States were without justifiable cause for their 
threatened attempts to break up the Union, either by peaceful 
secession, as they claimed the right to do, or by forcible rebel- 
lion, he could not deny that they had suffered serious wrongs 
through many years from the Northern abolition party. To 
deny them such a security would be at war with the noblest feel- 
ings of patriotism, and inconsistent with the friendly sentiments 
which ought ever to be cherished between the people of sister 
States. We ought first to do our duty toward the cotton States ; 
and if thereafter they should persist in attempting to dissolve 
the Union, they would expose themselves to universal condemna- 
tion. We should first " cast the beam out of our own eye," and 
then we might see clearly how to deal with our brothers' faults. 
Besides, such a course would have confirmed the loyalty of the 
border slaveholding States. And above all, we were bound to 
make this concession, the strong to the weak, when the object 
was to restore the fraternal feelings which had presided at the 
formation of the Constitution^ to reestablish the ancient harmony 
between the States, and to prevent civil war. Neither the 
Chicago platform, nor any other political platform, ought to have 
stood in the way of such a healing measure. The President, 
therefore, appealed to Congress to propose and recommend " to 
the legislatures of the several States the remedy for existing 
evils which the Constitution has itself provided for its own pres- 
ervation. This has been tried at different critical periods of our 
history, and always with eminent success. It is to be found in 
the fifth article providing for its own amendment. Under this 
article amendments have been proposed by two-thirds of both 
houses of Congress, and have been J ratified by the legislatures 
of three-fourths of the several States,' and have consequently be- 
come parts of the Constitution. To this process the country is 
indebted for the clause prohibiting Congress from passing any 


law respecting an establishment of *religion, or abridging the 
freedom of speech or of the press, or of the right of petition. To 
this we are, also, indebted for the Bill of Eights, which secures 
the people against any abuse of power by the Federal Gov- 
ernment. Such were the apprehensions justly entertained by 
the friends of State rights at that period as to have rendered it 
extremely doubtful whether the Constitution could have long 
survived without those amendments. 

" Again, the Constitution was amended by the same process, 
after the election of President Jefferson by the House of Rep- 
resentatives, in February, 1803. This amendment was rendered 
necessary to prevent a recurrence of the dangers which had 
seriously threatened the existence of the Government during the 
pendency of that election. The article for its own amendment 
was intended to secure the amicable adjustment of conflicting 
constitutional questions like the present, which might arise be- 
tween the Governments of the States and that of the United 
States. This appears from contemporaneous history." * * * 

" The explanatory amendment might be confined to the final 
settlement of the true construction of the Constitution on three 
special points : 

" 1. An express recognition of the right of property in slaves 
in the States where it now exists or may hereafter exist. 

" 2. The duty of protecting this right in all the common 
Territories throughout their Territorial existence, and until they 
shall be admitted as States into the Union, with or without 
slavery, as their constitutions may prescribe. 

" 3. A like recognition of the right of the master to have 
his slave, who has escaped from one State to another, restored 
and i delivered up ' to him, and of the validity of the fugitive 
slave law enacted for this purpose, together with a declaration 
that all State laws impairing or defeating this right are viola- 
tions of the Constitution, and are consequently null and void. 
It may be objected that this construction of the Constitution has 
already been settled by the Supreme Court of the United States, 
and what more ought to be required ? The answer is, that a 
very large proportion of the people of the United States still 
contest the correctness of this decision, and never will cease 

132 me. Buchanan's administration 

from agitation and admit its binding force until clearly estab- 
lished by the people of the several States in their sovereign 
character. Such an explanatory amendment would, it is be- 
lieved, forever terminate the existing dissensions, and restore 
peace and harmony among the States. 

" It ought not to be doubted that such an appeal to the arbit- 
rament established by the Constitution itself, would be received 
with favor by all the States of the Confederacy. In any event, 
it ought to be tried in a spirit of conciliation before any of these 
States shall separate themselves from the Union." 

The President accompanied his recommendations by a sol- 
emn appeal in favor of the Union. He says : 

" But may I be permitted solemnly to invoke my country- 
men to pause and deliberate, before they determine to destroy 
this, the grandest temple which has ever been dedicated to 
human freedom since the world began. It has been consecrated 
by the blood of our fathers, by the glories of the past, and by 
the hopes of the future. The Union has already made us the 
most prosperous, and ere long will, if preserved, render us the 
most powerful nation on the face of the earth. In every foreign 
region of the globe the title of American citizen is held in the 
highest respect, and when pronounced in a foreign land it causes 
the hearts of our countrymen to swell with honest pride. Surely 
when we reach the brink of the yawning abyss, we shall recoil 
with horror from the last fatal plunge. 

" By such a dread catastrophe, the hopes of the friends of 
freedom throughout the world would be destroyed, and a long 
night of leaden despotism would enshroud the nations. Our 
example for more than eighty years would not only be lost, but 
it would be quoted as a conclusive proof that man is unfit for 

" It is not every wrong — nay, it is not every grievous wrong 
— which can justify a resort to such a fearful alternative. This 
ought to be the last desperate remedy of a despairing peo- 
ple, after every constitutional means of conciliation had been 
exhausted. We should reflect that, under this free Govern- 
ment, there is an incessant ebb and flow in public opinion. The 
slavery question, like every thing human, will have its day. I 


firmly believe that it has reached and passed the culminating 
point. But if, in the midst of the existing excitement, the Union 
shall perish, the evil may then become irreparable." 

This message proved unsatisfactory both to the Republican 
party and to the Pro-Slavery party in the cotton States. The 
leaders of this latter party in Congress, and especially Mr. Jef- 
ferson Davis, objected to it because of its earnest argument 
against secession, and the determination expressed to collect the 
revenue in the ports of South Carolina, by means of a naval 
force, and to defend the public property. From this moment 
they alienated themselves from the President. Soon thereafter, 
when he refused to withdraw Major Anderson from Fort Sum- 
ter, on the demand of the self-styled South Carolina Commis- 
sioners, the separation became complete. For more than two 
months before the close of the session all friendly intercourse 
between them and the President, whether of a political or social 
character, had ceased. 

134 me. Buchanan's administration 



Refusal of Congress to act either with a view to conciliation or defence — The Senate 
Committee of Thirteen and its proceedings — Mr. Crittenden submits his Compro- 
mise to the Committee — Its nature — The Committee unable to agree — Testimony of 
Messrs. Douglas and Toombs that the Crittenden Compromise would have arrested 
secession in the Cotton States — Mr. Crittenden proposes to refer his amendment 
to the people of the several States by an act of ordinary legislation — His remarks 
in its favor — Proceedings thereon — Expression of public opinion in its favor — Pres- 
ident Buchanan recommends it — Recommendation disregarded and proposition 
defeated by the Clark amendment — Observations thereon — Peace Convention pro- 
posed by Virginia — Its meeting and proceedings — Amendment to the Constitution 
reported by Mr. Guthrie, chairman of the committee — Its modification on motion 
of Mr. Franklin, and final adoption by the Convention — Virginia and North Caro- 
lina vote with Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont 
against it — Its rejection by the United States Senate — The House of Representa- 
tives refuse even to receive it — Every Republican member in both branches of 
Congress opposed to it. 

In this perilous condition of the country it would scarcely 
be believed, were it not demonstrated by the record, that Con- 
gress deliberately refused, throughout the entire session, to pass 
any act or resolution either to preserve the Union by peaceful 
measures, or to furnish the President or his successor with a 
military force to repel any attack which might be made by the 
cotton States. It neither did the one thing nor the other. It 
neither presented the olive branch nor the sword. All history 
proves that inaction in such an emergency is the worst possible 
policy, and can never stay the tide of revolution. On the con- 
trary, it affords the strongest encouragement to rebellion. The 
sequel will prove the correctness of these opinions. 

Then, first, as to the action of Congress on the President's 
recommendation to adopt amendments to the Constitution. 
Soon after its meeting, on the motion of Senator Powell, of 
Kentucky, " so much of the President's Message as relates to 
the present agitated and distracted condition of the country, 
and the grievances between the slaveholding and the non-slave- 
holding States," * was referred to a special committee, consist 

* Senate's Report of Committees, 2d session, 36th Congress, 1860- 61, No. 288 


ing of thirteen members. This committee was composed of the 
most distinguished and influential Senators. They were true 
representatives of the political parties to which they respec- 
tively belonged. It consisted of five Eepublicans : Messrs. 
Seward, Collamer, Wade, Doolittle, and Grimes ; five from slave- 
holding States : Messrs. Powell, Hunter, Crittenden, Toombs, 
and Davis ; and three Northern Democrats : Messrs. Douglas, 
Bigler, and Bright. The latter three were intended to act as 
mediators between the extreme parties on the committee. 

No legislative body, in the history of nations, had ever 
created a committee upon whose action more important conse- 
quences depended. Beyond question, they had it in their power 
justly and honorably to preserve the peace of the country and 
the integrity of the Union. 

The committee first met on the 21st December, 1860, and, 
preliminary to any other proceeding, they " resolved that no 
proposition shall be reported as adopted, unless sustained by a 
majority of each of the classes of the committee ; Senators of 
the Republican party to constitute one class, and Senators of the 
other parties to constitute the other class." This resolution was 
passed, because any report they might make to the Senate would 
be in vain unless sanctioned by at least a majority of the Hve 
Republican Senators. On the next day (the 22d), Mr. Critten- 
den submitted to the committee " A Joint Resolution " (the same 
which he had two days before presented to the Senate), " pro- 
posing certain amendments to the Constitution of the United 
States," now known as the Crittenden Compromise. This was 
truly a compromise of conflicting claims, because it proposed 
that the South should surrender their adjudged right to take 
slaves into all our Territories, provided the North would recog- 
nize this right in the Territories south of the old Missouri Com- 
promise line. This amendment offered terms to the North far 
less favorable to the South than their existing rights under the 
decision of the Supreme Court. 

The Constitution, as expounded by this decision, opens all 
the Territories^ both North and South, as the common property 
of the States, to the introduction and protection of slave prop- 
erty. Mr. Crittenden's amendment proposed to restrict this gen- 

136 me. Buchanan's administration 

eral right and confine it to the Territories south of the latitude 
of 36° 30'. It prohibited slavery forever from all Territories, 
"now held or hereafter acquired," north of this line, whilst 
south of it slavery was " recognized as existing, and shall not 
be interfered with by Congress, but shall be protected as property 
by all the departments of the Territorial Government during 
its continuance; and when any Territory north or south of said 
line, within such boundaries as Congress may prescribe, shall 
contain the population requisite for a member of Congress, it 
shall be admitted into the Union with or without slavery, as 
the Constitution of such new State may provide." * 

This amendment yielded every thing to the North, except 
a mere abstraction. It gave, in , point of fact, all the vast 
territories of the United States to perpetual freedom, with the 
single exception of New Mexico. And in regard to this, it is 
scarcely necessary to state to any person in the least degree ac- 
quainted with geography, that New Mexico could never practi- 
cally become a slaveholding State. As to the Indian Territory 
south of 36° 3<y, it belongs not to the United States, but is 
secured to the Indians by solemn treaties, founded upon full and 
indeed ample equivalents. 

At the first it was confidently expected that this amendment 
would be yielded by the North as a peace offering to the South. 
It was in substance and in fact neither more nor less than an 
offer to restore the Missouri Compromise, against the repeal of 
which the Rep^fclican party in Congress, in 1854, had so justly 
struggled. It was hailed by the people throughout the country 
as the rainbow upon the cloud, promising peace and perpetuity 
to the Union. Indeed, who could fail to believe that when the 
alternative was presented to the Senators and Kepresentatives 
of the Northern States, either to yield to their brethren in the 
South the barren abstraction of carrying their slaves into New 
Mexico, or to expose the country to the imminent peril of civil 
war, they would choose the side of peace and Union ? The 
period for action was still propitious. It will be recollected that 
Mr. Crittenden's amendment was submitted belore any of our 
forts had been seized, before any of the cotton States, except 

* Senate Report of the Proceedings of the Committee, Dec. 31, 1860. 


South Carolina, had seceded, and before any of the Conventions 
which had been called in the remaining six of these States had 
assembled. Under such circumstances it would have been true 
wisdom to seize the propitious moment before it fled forever, 
and even yield, if need be, a trifling concession to patriotic 
policy, if not to abstract justice, rather than expose the country 
to a great impending calamity. And how small the concession 
required even from a sincere anti-slavery Republican ! In the 
language of Mr. Crittenden : " The sacrifice to be made for its 
preservation [that of the Union] is comparatively worthless. 
Peace and harmony and union in a great nation were never pur- 
chased at so cheap a rate as we now have it in our power to do. 
It is a scruple only, a scruple of as little value as a barleycorn, 
that stands between us and peace and reconciliation and union ; 
and we stand here pausing and hesitating about that little atom 
which is to be sacrificed." * . 

Notwithstanding these powerful arguments in favor of the 
Crittenden Compromise, it was rejected by the Committee of 
Thirteen, every one of its five Republican members, together with 
Messrs. Davis and Toombs, from the cotton States, having voted 
against it. Indeed, not one of all the Republicans in the Senate, 
at any period or in any form, voted in its favor, doubtless for the 
reason that it tolerated slavery within New Mexico, in opposi- 
tion to the Chicago platform. This they held paramount to 
every other consideration. 

The committee, having failed to arrive at a satisfactory con- 
clusion, reported their disagreement to the Senate on the 31st 
December, 1860, in a resolution declaring that they had " not 
been able to agree upon any general plan of adjustment." f 
Thus on the last day of the year 1860 vanished the reasonable 
prospect that any of the seven cotton States would voluntarily 
remain in the Union. Soon thereafter the Conventions of Florida 
on the 7th January, Mississippi the 9th, Alabama the 11th, 
Georgia the 19th, Louisiana the 25th, and Texas the 5th Febru- 
ary, adopted ordinances of secession by overwhelming majorities. 
Several of these States, after the evil example of South Carolina, 

* Con. Globe, 3d Jan., 1861, p. 237. 

+ Senate Report of Committee, 1860-61, No. 288. 

138 me. Buchanan's administration 

proceeded to seize the public property within their limits ; and 
the authorities of Louisiana, even before her ordinance of seces- 
sion, more outrageous than the rest, robbed the Branch Mint 
and Sub-Treasury at New Orleans of a large amount of money. 

But was Mr. Crittenden correct in believing, notwithstanding 
the adverse vote of Messrs. Davis and Toombs in the committee, 
that the adoption of his amendment would have arrested seces- 
sion in the cotton States ? There is good reason to believe that 
lie was, with the exception of South Carolina ; and she could 
not long have remained in a state of isolation. On this question 
we have the published testimony of two members of the Com- 
mittee of Thirteen, which has never since been contradicted. 
Mr. Douglas, in his speech of the 3d January, 1861, but three 
days after the report of the committee and within the hearing 
of all its members, said : " If you of the Republican side are 
not willing to accept this [a proposition for adjustment made by 
himself] nor the proposition of the Senator from Kentucky 
(Mr. Crittenden), pray tell us what you are willing to do. I 
address the inquiry to the Republicans alone, for the reason that 
in the Committee of Thirteen, a few days ago, every member from 
the South, including those from .the cotton States (Messrs. 
Toombs and Davis), expressed their readmess to accept the 
proposition of my venerable friend from Kentucky (Mr. Critten- 
den), as a final settlement of the controversy, if tendered and 
sustained by. the Republican members. Hence the sole respon- 
sibility of our disagreement, and the only difficulty in the way 
of an amicable adjustment, is with the Republican party." * 

And Mr. Douglas, afterwards, on the 2d of March, 1861, re- 
affirmed his former statement. In replying to Senator Pugh 
(of Ohio), he said : " The Senator has said that if the Crittenden 
proposition could have been passed early in the session, it would 
have saved all the States except South Carolina. I firmly 
believe it would. While the Crittenden proposition was not in 
accordance with my cherished views, I avowed my readiness 
and eagerness to accept it, in order to save the Union, if we 
could unite upon it. No man has labored harder than I have to 
get it passed. I. can confirm the Senator's declaration that Sen- 

* Appendix to Con. Globe, I860-' 61, p. 41. 


ator Davis himself, when on the Committee of Thirteen, was 
ready, at all times, to compromise on the Crittenden proposition. 
I will go further and say that Mr. Toombs was also ready to do 
so." * 

Besides, on the 7th January, 1861, Mr. Toombs, only twelve 
days before his State seceded, said: "But although I insist 
upon this perfect equality in the Territories, when it was pro- 
posed, as I understand the Senator from Kentucky now proposes,' 
that the line of 36° 30' shall be extended, acknowledging and 
protecting our property on the south side of that line, for the 
sake of peace, permanent peace, I said to the Committee of 
Thirteen, and I say here, that with other satisfactory provisions, 
I would accept it," etc., etc.f 

Mr. Crittenden did not despair of ultimate success, notwith- 
standing his defeat before the Committee of Thirteen. After 
this, indeed, he could no longer expect to carry his compromise 
as an amendment to the Constitution by the necessary two-thirds 
vote of Congress. It was, therefore, postponed by the Senate on 
his own motion.^ As a substitute for it he submitted to the 
Senate, on the 3d January, 1861, a joint resolution (S. JSTo. 54), 
which might be passed by a bare majority of both Houses. This 
was to refer his rejected amendment, by an ordinary Act of Con- 
gress, to a direct vote of the people of the several States. This 
he prefaced by some striking remarks. He said : " The times 
on which we have fallen, sir, are of a very extraordinary charac- 
ter ; full of danger to the peace of the country, and even to the 
union of the country. Its extraordinary character seems to 
require of us all efforts, ordinary and extraordinary, for the pur- 
pose of averting the danger which now so threateningly hangs 
over us. The measure which I am about to propose, sir, is of 
that extraordinary character ; and I shall be at a loss for a justi- 
fication and excuse for it, if it cannot be found in the perilous 
condition of public affairs, and in that great law, the safety of 
the people." 

He then proceeded to offer his resolution in the following 
language : " Whereas the Union is in danger, and, owing to the 

* Con. Globe, I860-' 61, p. 1391. f Ibid., p. 270. 

X Ibid., p. 237. 

140 me. Buchanan's administration 

unhappy divisions existing in Congress, it would be difficult, if 
not impossible, for that body to concur in both its branches by 
the requisite majority, so as to enable it either to adopt such 
measures of legislation, or to recommend to the States such 
amendments to the Constitution, as are deemed necessary and 
proper to avert that danger ; and whereas in so great an emer- 
gency the opinion and judgment of the people ought to be heard, 
and would be the best and surest guide to their Representatives : 
Therefore, Resolved, That provision ought to be made by law 
without delay for taking the sense of the people and submitting 
to their vote the following resolution [the same as in his former 
amendment], as the basis for the final and permanent settlement 
of those disputes that now disturb the peace of the country and 
threaten the existence of the Union." 

It was supposed that this resolution would conciliate the 
support of some at least, if not all, of the Republican Senators. 
By referring the questions in dispute to the legitimate fountain 
of all political power, it would relieve them from previous com- 
mittals to the Chicago platform. Besides, it was believed that 
they would not assume the responsibility of denying to the 
people of their own States the opportunity of expressing an 
opinion at the ballot-box on questions involving no less a stake 
than the peace and safety of the Union. Nevertheless, it will 
appear from the sequel, that not a single Republican Senator 
ever voted for the resolution. Had Congress thought proper to 
refer the Crittenden Compromise to the people of the several 
States, no person who observed the current of public opinion at 
the time, can fail to believe that outside of South Carolina it 
would have received their approbation. Memorials in its favor 
poured into Congress from all portions of the North, even from 
New England.* One of these presented to the Senate was 
from " the Mayor and members of the Board of Aldermen and 
the Common Council of the city of Boston, and over 22,000 
citizens of the State of Massachusetts, praying the adoption of 
the compromise measures proposed by Mr. Crittenden." f It 
may be proper here to observe that the resolution of Mr. Crit- 

* Index to Senate Journal, pp. 494, 495, and 496. 
t Senate Journal, I860-' 61, p. 218. 


tenden did not provide in detail for holding elections by which 
" the sense of the people " could be ascertained. To supply this 
omission, Senator Bigler, of Pennsylvania, the able, indefatiga- 
ble, and devoted friend of the measure, on the 14th January, 
1861, brought in "A bill to provide for taking the sense of the 
people of the United States on certain proposed amendments to 
the Constitution of the United States ; " but never was he able, 
notwithstanding his persevering efforts, to induce the Senate 
even to consider this bill. 

President Buchanan, in the mean time, and from the begin- 
ning, exerted all his constitutional influence in favor of these 
measures. In his special message to Congress of the 8th Jan- 
uary, 1861, after depicting the deplorable consequences which 
had already resulted to the country from the bare apprehension 
of civil war and the dissolution of the Union, he says : " Let 
the question be transferred from political assemblies to the bal- 
lot-box, and the people themselves would speedily redress the 
serious grievances which the South have suffered. But, in 
Heaven's name, let the trial be made before we plunge into 
armed conflict upon the mere assumption that there is no other 
alternative. Time is a great conservative power. Let us pause 
at this momentous point, and afford the people, both North and 
South, an opportunity for reflection. Would that South Caro- 
lina had been convinced of this truth before her precipitate 
action ! I, therefore, appeal through you to the people of the 
country, to declare in their might that the Union must and 
shall be preserved by all constitutional means. I most earnestly 
recommend that you devote yourselves exclusively to the ques- 
tion how this can be accomplished in peace. All other ques- 
tions, when compared with this, sink into insignificance. . The 
present is no time for palliatives ; action, prompt action is re- 
quired. A delay in Congress to prescribe or to recommend a 
distinct and practical proposition for conciliation, may drive us 
to a point from which it will be almost impossible to recede. 

" A common ground on which conciliation and harmony can 
be produced is surely not unattainable. The proposition to 
compromise by letting the North have exclusive control of the 
territory above a certain line, and to give Southern institutions 

142 me. Buchanan's administration 

protection below that line, ought to receive universal approba- 
tion. In itself, indeed, it may not be entirely satisfactory, but 
when the alternative is between a reasonable concession on both 
sides and a dissolution of the Union, it is an imputation on the 
patriotism of Congress to assert that its members will hesitate 
for a moment." 

This earnest recommendation was totally disregarded. It 
would be a useless labor to recapitulate all the proceedings in 
the Senate upon the proposition of Mr. Crittenden to refer his 
amendment to a vote of the people. On the 14th January, 
1861, he made an unsuccessful attempt to have it considered, 
but it was postponed until the day following.* On this day it 
was again postponed by the vote of every Republican Senator 
present, in order to make way for the Pacific Railroad bill.f On 
the third attempt (January 16), he succeeded, but by a majority 
of a single vote, in bringing his resolution before the body. 
Every Republican Senator present voted against its considera- 
tion. A direct vote upon the resolution, so earnestly desired by 
the country, now seemed inevitable. The parliamentary tactics 
of the Republican party, however, defeated this object. Mr. 
Clark, a Republican Senator from ]STew Hampshire, moved to 
strike out the entire preamble and resolution of Mr. Crittenden, 
and in lieu thereof insert as a substitute a preamble and resolu- 
tion of a directly opposite character, and in accordance with the 
Chicago platform. This motion prevailed by a vote of 25 to 23, 
every Republican Senator present having voted in its favor.J 
Thus Mr. Crittenden's proposition to refer the question to the 
people was buried under the Clark amendment. This contin- 
ued to be its position for more than six weeks, until the day 
before the final adjournment of Congress, 2d March, when it 
was far too late for final action even had there been a majority 
in its favor. This superincumbent weight was then removed, 
and the proposition itself was defeated by a vote of 19 in the 
afiirmative against 20 in the negative. § Thus the Republican 
party accomplished their object, and thus terminated every rea- 

* Con. Globe, I860-' 61, . 361-363. t Ibid., p. 381. 

X Ibid., p. 409. § Ibid., p. 1405. 


sonable hope of any compromise between the North and the 

It is proper for future reference that the names of those Sen- 
ators who constituted the majority on this momentous ques- 
tion, should be placed upon record. Every vote given from the 
six New England States was in opposition to Mr. Crittenden's 
resolution. These consisted of Mr. Clark, of New Hampshire ; 
Messrs. Sumner and Wilson, of Massachusetts ; Mr. Anthony, 
of Ehode Island ; Messrs. Dixon and Eoster, of Connecticut ; 
Mr. Eoot, of Vermont ; and Mr. Fessenden, of Maine. The 
remaining twelve votes, in order *to make up the 20, were given 
by Messrs. Bingham and Wade, of Ohio ; Mr. Trumbull, of 
Illinois ; Messrs. Bingham and Chandler, of Michigan ; Messrs. 
Grimes and Harlan, of Iowa ; Messrs. Doolittle and Durkee, 
of Wisconsin ; Mr. Wilkinson, of Minnesota ; Mr. King, of New 
York ; and Mr. Ten Eyck, of New Jersey. It is also worthy of 
observation, that neither Mr. Hale, of New Hampshire, Mr. 
Simmons, of Rhode Island, Mr. Collamer, of Vermont, Mr. 
Seward, of New York, nor Mr. Cameron, of Pennsylvania, 
voted on the question, although it appears from the journal 
that all these gentlemen were present in the Senate on the 
day of the vote. It would be vain to conjecture the reasons 
why these five Senators refrained from voting on an occasion so 

It will be recollected that a direct vote of the Senate on the 
Crittenden resolution was defeated by the adoption of the Clark 
amendment, at so early a period of the session as the 16th Jan- 
uary, when there was still time for action. This amendment 
prevailed only in consequence of the refusal of six secession 
Senators to vote against it. They thus played into the hands 
of the Republican Senators, and rendered them a most accepta- 
ble service. These were Messrs. Benjamin and Slidell, of Lou- 
isiana ; Mr. Iverson, of Georgia ; Messrs. Hemphill and Wigfall, 
of Texas ; and Mr. Johnson, of Arkansas. Had these gentle- 
men voted with their brethren from the border slaveholding 
States and the other Democratic Senators, the Clark amend- 
ment would have been defeated, and the Senate would then have 
been brought to a direct vote on the Crittenden resolution. 


Had this been effected and the Crittenden resolution adopted 
by the Senate, as it might have been by the votes of the recu- 
sant Senators, this would have awakened the people of the coun- 
try to their true condition, and might have aroused them into 
action in sufficient time before the close of the session to avert 
the impending danger. As it was, they remained in a state of 
suspense, and still continued to hope until the very day before 
the termination of Congress, when all hope was finally extin- 
guished. Such conduct on the part of these six Senators can- 
not be too severely censured. They thus deserted the Demo- 
cratic Senators from the border slaveholding and other States, 
at the hour of their utmost need. It is but a poor excuse for 
their defection to say, as they did, that the Republican Senators, 
whose votes were necessary to any effectual compromise, had 
steadily repudiated the Crittenden propositions in every form, 
and for this reason they were already on the eve of abandoning 
their seats in the Senate. 

Whilst the lovers of peace were almost despairing for the 
fate of the Crittenden amendment, their hope of its final tri- 
umph was revived by the interposition of Virginia.* The Gen- 
eral Assembly of that Commonwealth, on the 19th January, 
1861, adopted resolutions expressing u the deliberate opinion " 
" that unless the unhappy controversy which now divides the 
States of the Confederacy shall be satisfactorily adjusted, a 
permanent dissolution of the Union is inevitable." For the 
purpose of averting " so dire a calamity," they extended an invi- 
tation "to all such States, whether slaveholding or non-slave- 
holding, as are willing to unite with Virginia in an earnest 
effort to adjust the present unhappy controversies, in the spirit 
in which the Constitution was originally framed," to appoint 
Commissioners for this purpose, to meet on the 4th February, 
1861, at the City of Washington. The resolutions expressed a 
favorable opinion of the Crittenden Compromise, with some 
modifications, and the belief that " it would be accepted as a 
satisfactory adjustment by the people of this Commonwealth." 
Such was the origin of the Peace Convention. The best hopes 
of the country were now fixed on the border slave States, in- 

* Con. Globe, I860-' 61, p. 601. 


eluding North Carolina and Tennessee. These great and pow- 
erful commonwealths still remained faithful to the Union. They 
had hitherto stood aloof from secession, and had manifested an 
earnest desire not only to remain in the Union themselves, but 
to exert their powerful influence to bring back the seceding sis- 
ters. Virginia had ever ranked as chief among the Southern 
States, and had exercised great influence over their counsels. 
She had now taken the lead in the grand design to save the 
Union, and it became the duty of the President to render her 
all the aid in his power in a cause so holy. Every reflecting 
man foresaw that if the present movement of Virginia should 
fail to impress upon Congress and the country the necessity for 
adopting a peaceful compromise, like that proposed by Mr. Crit- 
tenden, there was imminent danger that all the border slave 
States would follow the cotton States, which had already adopted 
ordinances of secession, and unite with them in an attempt to 
break up the Union. Indeed, as has been already seen, the 
Virginia Legislature had declared that, in case of failure, such 
a dissolution was " inevitable." 

The Peace Convention met on the 4th February.* It was com- 
posed of one hundred and thirty-three commissioners, represent- 
ing twenty-one States. A bare inspection of the list will con- 
vince all inquirers of the great respectability and just influence 
of its members. Among them there were many venerable and 
distinguished citizens from the border States, earnestly intent 
upon restoring and saving the Union. , Their great object was 
to prevail upon their associates from the North to unite with 
them in such recommendations to Congress as would prevent 
their own States from seceding, and enable them to bring back 
the cotton States which had already seceded. It will be recol- 
lected that on the 4th February, when the Peace Convention 
assembled, six of the cotton States, South Carolina, Alabama, 
Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, and Florida, had already adopted 
ordinances of secession ; and that but four days thereafter (8th 
February) deputies from these States had adopted and published 
at Montgomery, Alabama, a Provisional Constitution for the so- 
called Confederate States. The Union was then crumbling to 

* Con. Globe, I860-' 61, p. 125 _ 

146 me. Buchanan's administration 

pieces. One month only of the session of Congress remained. 
Within this brief period it was necessary that the Convention 
should recommend amendments to the Constitution in sufficient 
time to enable both Houses to act upon them before their final 
adjournment. It was also essential to success that these amend- 
ments should be sustained by a decided majority of the commis- 
sioners both from the Northern and the border States. It was, 
however, soon discovered that the same malign influence which 
had caused every Republican member of Congress to oppose the 
Crittenden Compromise, would probably defeat the patriotic 
purpose for which the Convention had assembled. 

On Wednesday, the 6th February, a resolution was adopted,* 
on motion of Mr. Guthrie, of Kentucky, to refer the resolutions 
of the General Assembly of Virginia, and all other kindred sub- 
jects, to a committee to consist of one commissioner from each 
State, to be selected by the respective State delegations ; and 
to prevent delay they were instructed to report on or before 
the Friday following (the 8th), " what they may deem right, 
necessary, and proper to restore harmony and preserve the 

This committee, instead of reporting on the day appointed, 
did not report until Friday, the 15th February, f and thus a pre- 
cious week was lost. The reason for this delay shall be expressed 
in the language of Mr. Reverdy Johnson, a member of the com- 
mittee and a commissioner from Maryland. In his letter of 13th 
May, 1863, to the editors of the " Journal of Commerce," in an- 
swer to allegations made by Mr. David D. Field, who had also 
been a member of the committee from New York, he says : 
" In the committee to whom the whole subject was referred, and 
at whose head was placed Mr. Guthrie, of Kentucky, and of 
which Mr. Field was a member, efforts to this end [reasonable 
guarantees to the South on the subject of slavery] were made 
again and again, but in vain. And what was finally agreed 
upon and reported, met with the sanction of but a bare majority 
of the committee, Mr. Field not being of that majority. The 
discussions in every meeting of the committee were earnest, and 
a part of the Southern members (I was of the number) im- 

* Official Journal of the Convention, pp. 9 and 10. t Ibid., p. 21. 


plored their Northern brethren to agree to something that there 
was any reason to believe would be satisfactory to the South. I 
saw then that unanimity could alone render the propositions of 
the committee effective. I also saw, and as the result has proved, 
that no satisfactory adjustment attained, an attempt at least 
would be made to sever the Union." (The cotton States 
had already attempted to sever it so far as this was in their 

The amendments reported by a majority of the committee, 
through Mr. Guthrie, their chairman, were substantially the 
same with the Crittenden Compromise ; but on motion of Mr. 
Johnson, of Maryland, the general terms of the first and by far 
the most important section were restricted to the present Terri- 
tories of the United States.* On motion of Mr. Franklin, of 
Pennsylvania, this section was further amended, but not mate- 
rially changed, by the adoption of the substitute offered by him. 
Nearly in this form it was afterwards adopted by the Conven- 
tion.! The following is a copy: "In all the present territory 
of the United States north of the parallel of thirty-six degrees and 
thirty minutes of north latitude, involuntary servitude, except 
in punishment of crime, is prohibited. In all the present terri- 
tory south of that line, the status of persons held to involuntary 
service or labor, as it now exists, shall not be changed ; nor shall 
any law be passed by Congress or the Territorial Legislature to 
hinder or prevent the taking of such persons from any of the 
States of this Union to said territory, nor to impair the rights 
arising from said relation; but the same shall be subject to judi- 
cial cognizance in the Federal courts, according to the course of 
the common law. When any Territory north or south of said 
line, within such boundary as Congress may prescribe, shall con- 
tain a population equal to that required lor a member of Con- 
gress, it shall, if its form of government be republican, be ad- 
mitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original 
States, with or without involuntary servitude, as the Constitution 
of such State may provide." 

Mr. Baldwin, of Connecticut, and Mr. Seddon, of Yirginia, 
on opposite extremes, made minority reports, which they pro- 

* Official Journal, p. 42. t Ibid., p. 70. 

148 mr. Buchanan's administration 

posed to substitute for that of the majority. Mr. Baldwin's 
report was a recommendation u to the several States to unite 
with Kentucky in her application to Congress to call a Con- 
vention for proposing amendments to the Constitution of the 
United States, to be submitted to the Legislatures of the several 
States, or to Conventions therein, for ratification, as the one or 
the other mode of ratification may be proposed by Congress, in 
accordance with the provisions in the fifth article of the Consti- 
tution." * 

Of the two modes prescribed by the Constitution for its own 
amendment, this was the least eligible at the existing crisis, be- 
cause by far the most dilatory. Instead of calling upon Con- 
gress, then in session and which could act immediately, to pro- 
pose specific amendments to the Legislatures of the several States, 
it adopted the circuitous mode of requesting these Legislatures, 
in the first instance, to apply to Congress to call a Convention. 
Even should two-thirds of them respond in the affirmative to this 
request, the process would necessarily occasion a delay of years 
in attaining the object, when days were all-important. This 
would entirely defeat the patriotic purpose of the Peace Con- 
vention. It was called to obtain, if possible, a direct vote of 
two-thirds of both Houses before the end of the session in favor 
of such amendments as it might recommend. Could such a vote 
be obtained, it was confidently expected by the friends of the 
Union that its moral influence would, for the present, satisfy the 
border States ; would arrest the tide beginning to rise among 
their people in favor of secession, and might enable them to 
exercise an effective influence in reclaiming the States which 
had already seceded. Affairs were then so urgent that long be- 
fore the State Legislatures could possibly ask Congress to call a 
Convention as required by Mr. Baldwin's proposition, the cause 
of the Union might be hopeless. It was, therefore, rejected. 

This proposition of Mr. Baldwin, evasive and dilatory as it 
was, nevertheless received the votes of eight of the twenty-one 
States. f These consisted of the whole of the 'New England * 
States, except Rhode Island, and of Illinois, Iowa, and New 
York, all being free States. This was an evil omen. 

* Official Journal pp. 24 and 25. t Ibid., p. 63. 


The first amendment reported by Mr. Seddon differed from 
that of the majority inasmuch as it embraced not only the pres- 
ent but all future Territories.* This was rejected.f His sec- 
ond amendment, which, however, was never voted upon by the 
Convention, went so far as distinctly to recognize the right of 

It cannot be denied that there was in the Convention an ex- 
treme Southern rights element, headed by Mr. Seddon. This 
manifested itself throughout its proceedings. These show how 
naturally extremes meet. On more than one important occa- 
sion, we find the vote of Virginia and North Carolina, though 
given in each case by a bare majority of their commissioners, 
side by side with the vote of Massachusetts and Vermont. It 
would be too tedious to trace the proceedings of the Convention 
from the report of the committee made by Mr. Guthrie until 
its final adjournment. It is sufficient to say that more than 
ten days were consumed in discussion and in voting upon va- 
rious propositions offered by individual commissioners. The 
final vote was not reached until Tuesday, the 26th February, 
when it was taken on the first and vitally important section, as 

amended.^ • 

This section, on which all the rest depended, was negatived 
by a vote of eight States to eleven. Those which voted in its 
favor were Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, 
Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee. And those in the 
negative were Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachu- 
setts, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, New Hampshire, 
Vermont, and Virginia. It is but justice to say that Messrs. 
Ruflm and Morehead, of North Carolina, and Messrs. Rives and 
Summers, of Virginia, two of the five commissioners from each 
of these States, declared their dissent from the vote of their 
respective States. So, also, did Messrs. Bronson, Corning, 
Dodge, "Wool, and Granger, five of the eleven New York com- 
missioners, dissent from the vote of their State. On the other 
hand, Messrs. Meredith and "Wilmot, two of the seven commis- 
sioners from Pennsylvania, dissented from the majority in voting 
in favor of the section. Thus would the Convention have ter- 

* Off. Journal, pp. 26, 27, and 28. t Ibid., p. 28. % Ibid., p. 70. 

150 me. Buchanan's administration 

minated but for the interposition of Illinois. Immediately after 
the section had been negatived, the commissioners from that 
State made a motion to reconsider the vote, and this prevailed. 
The Convention afterwards adjourned until the next morning. 
When they reassembled (February 27), the first section was 
adopted, but only by a majority of nine to eight States, nine being 
less than a majority of the States represented. This change was 
effected by a change of the vote of Illinois from the negative to 
the affirmative, by Missouri withholding her vote, and by a tie 
in the New York commissioners, on account of the absence of 
one of their number, rendering it impossible for the State to 
vote. Still Yirginia and North Carolina, in the one extreme, 
and Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and 
Vermont, in the other, persisted in voting in the negative. From 
the nature of this vote, it was manifestly impossible that two- 
thirds of both Houses of Congress should act favorably on the 
amendment, even if the delay had not already rendered such 
action impracticable before the close of the session. 

It would be useless to refer to the voting on the remaining 
sections of the amendment, which were carried by small major- 
ities.* The Convention, on the same day, through Mr. Tyler, 
their President, communicated to the Senate and House of Rep- 
resentatives the amendment they had adopted, embracing all the 
sections, with a request that it might be submitted by Congress, 
under the Constitution, to the several State Legislatures. In 
the Senate this was immediately referred to a select committee, 
on motion of Mr. Crittenden. The committee, on the next 
day (28th Feb.), f reported a joint resolution (No. 70) proposing 
it as an amendment to the Constitution, but he was never able 
to bring the Senate to a direct vote upon it. J Failing in this, 
he made a motion to substitute the amendment of the Peace 
Convention for his own.§ This he prefaced by declaring that 
he looked upon the result of the deliberations of that body 
" as affording the best opportunity for a general concurrence 
among the States, and among the people." He, therefore, 
" had determined to take it in preference to his own proposi- 

* Senate Journal, pp. 332, 333. t Ibid., p. 337. % Ibid., p. 384. 

§ Con. Globe, I860-' 61, p. 1404. 


tion, and had so stated to many of the members of the Con- 
vention." He further Said that he had " examined the proposi- 
tions offered by that Convention ; they contain, in my judg- 
ment, every material provision that is contained in the resolu- 
tion called the Crittenden Resolution." He also had adopted 
this course " out of deference to that great body of men selected 
on the resolution of Virginia, and invited by Virginia herself. 
The body having met, and being composed of such men, and a 
majority of that Convention concurring in these resolutions, I 
think they come to us with a sanction entitling them to consid- 
eration." Mr. Crittenden's reasons failed to convince the Sen- 
ate, and his motion was rejected by a large majority (28 to 7).* 
Then next in succession came the memorable vote on Mr. Crit- 
tenden's own resolution, and it was in its turn defeated, as we 
have already stated, by a majority of 20 against 19. 

We cannot take leave of this venerable patriot, who so wisely 
appreciated the existing danger, without paying a just tribute 
to the vigor and perseverance of his repeated efforts to ward off 
from his country the direful calamity of disunion and civil war. 
"Well did he merit the almost unanimous vote of the Virginia 
Convention, on the 11th March, tendering him the thanks of the 
people of Virginia for " his recent able, zealous, and patriotic 
efforts in the Senate of the United States, to bring about a just 
and honorable adjustment of our national difficulties." f This 
vote, we may remark, was far from being complimentary to the 
conduct of a majority of their own commissioners (Messrs. Ty- 
ler, Brockenbrough, and Seddon) in the Peace Convention. 

In the House of Representatives, the amendment proposed 
by the Convention was treated with still less respect than it had 
been by the Senate.^ The Speaker was refused leave even to 
present it.§ Every effort made for this purpose was successfully 
resisted by leading Republican members. The consequence is 
that a copy of it does not even appear in the Journal. 

Although the amendment was somewhat less favorable to 
the South, and ought, therefore, to have been more acceptable 
to the North than the Crittenden amendment, yet like this it 

* Senate Journal, p. 386. t National Intelligencer, March 14, 1861. 

t Con. Globe, pp. 1331, 1332, 1333. § House Journal, pp. 446, 448, 449. 

152 me. Buchanan's administration 

encountered the opposition of every Republican member in both 
Houses of Congress. Nevertheless, it presented a basis of com- 
promise which, had it been conceded by the North, might and 
probably would have been accepted by the people of the border 
States,' in preference to the fearful alternative of their secession 
from the Union. 



Congress passes no measures to enable the President to execute the laws or defend the 
Government — They decline to revive the authority of the Federal Judiciary in 
South Carolina, suspended by the resignation of all the judicial officers — They 
refuse authority to call forth the militia or accept volunteers, to suppress insur- 
rections against the United States, and it was never proposed to grant an appro- 
priation for this purpose — The Senate declines throughout the entire session to act 
upon the nomination of a Collector of the Port of Charleston — Congress refuses to 
grant to the President the authority long since expired, which had been granted 
to General Jackson for the collection of the revenue — The 36th Congress expires, 
leaving the law just as they found it — General observations. 

"We have already seen that Congress, throughout the entire 
session, refused to adopt any measures of compromise to prevent 
civil war, or to retain first the cotton or afterwards the border 
States within the Union. Failing to do this, and whilst wit- 
nessing the secession of one after another of the cotton States, 
the withdrawal of their Senators and Representatives, and the 
formation of their Confederacy, it was the imperative duty 
of Congress to furnish the President or his successor the 
means of repelling force by force, should this become necessary 
to preserve the Union. They, nevertheless, refused to perform 
this duty with as much pertinacity as they had manifested in 
repudiating all measures of compromise. 

1. At the meeting of Congress a Federal Judiciary had 
ceased to exist in South Carolina. The District Judge, the Dis- 
trict Attorney, and the United States Marshal had resigned 
their offices. These ministers of justice had all deserted their 
posts before the act of secession, and the laws of the United 
States could no longer be enforced through their agency. We 
have already seen that the President, in his message, called the 

154 me. Buchanan's administration 

attention of Congress to this subject, but no attempt was made 
in either House to provide a remedy for the evil. 

2. Congress positively refused to pass a law conferring on 
the President authority to call forth the militia, or accept the 
services of volunteers, to suppress insurrections which might 
occur in any State against the Government of the United States. 
It may appear strange that this power had not long since been 
vested in the Executive. The Act of February 28, 1795,* the 
only law applicable to the subject, provides alone for calling 
forth the militia to suppress insurrections against State Govern- 
ments, without making any similar provision for suppressing 
insurrections against the Government of the United States. If 
any thing were required beyond a mere inspection of the act to 
render this clear, it may be found in the opinion of Attorney- 
General Black, of the 20th November, 1860. Indeed it is a plain 
casus omissus. This palpable omission, which ought to have 
been instantly supplied, was suffered to continue until after the 
end of Mr. Buchanan's administration, wTien on the 29th July, 
1861, Congress conferred this necessary power on the President, f 
The framers of the Act of 1795 either did not anticipate an 
insurrection within any State against the Federal Government, 
or if they did, they purposely abstained from providing for it. 
Even in regard to insurrections against a State Government, so 
jealous were they of any interference on the part of the Federal 
Government with the rights of the States, that they withheld 
from Congress the power to protect any State " against domes- 
tic violence," except " on the application of the Legislature, or 
of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened)." 
Under the Act of 1795, therefore, the President is precluded 
from acting even upon his own personal and absolute knowledge 
of the existence of such an insurrection. Before he can call 
forth the militia for its suppression, he must first be applied to 
for this purpose by the appropriate State authorities, in the 
manner prescribed by the Constitution. It was the duty of 
Congress, immediately after their meeting, to supply this defect 
in our laws, and to confer an absolute authority on the Presi- 
dent to call forth the militia, and accept the services of volun- 

* 1 Stat, at Large, p. 424. t 12 U. S. Stat, at Large, p. 281. 


teers, to suppress insurrections against the United States, when- 
ever or wherever they might occur. This was a precautionary 
measure which, independently of existing dangers, ought long 
since to have formed a part of our permanent legislation. But 
no attempt was ever made in Congress to adopt it until after 
the President's special message of the 8th January, 1861, and 
then the attempt entirely failed. Meanwhile the aspect of pub- 
lic affairs had become more and more threatening. Mr. Crit- 
tenden's amendment had been defeated before the Committee 
of Thirteen, on the last day of December ; and it was also highly 
probable that his proposition before the Senate to refer it to a 
vote of the people of the States, would share the same fate. 
South Carolina and Florida had already seceded, and the other 
cotton States had called Conventions for the purpose of seceding. 
Nay, more, several of them had already seized the forts, maga- 
zines, and arsenals within their limits. Still all this failed to 
produce any effect upon Congress. It was at this crisis the 
President sent his special message to Congress (8th January, 
1861), by which he endeavored to impress them with the neces- 
sity for immediate action. He concealed nothing from them. 
Whilst still clinging to the fading hope that they might yet pro- 
vide for a peaceful adjustment of our difficulties, and strongly 
recommending this course, he says : " Even now the danger is 
upon us. In several of the States which have not yet seceded, 
the forts, arsenals, and magazines of the United States have 
been seized. This is by far the most serious step which has 
been taken since the commencement of the troubles. * * * 
The seizure of this property, from all appearances, has been 
purely aggressive, and not in resistance to any attempt to coerce 
a State or States to remain in the Union." He also stated the 
well-known fact that our small army was on the remote fron- 
tiers, and was scarcely sufficient to guard the inhabitants against 
Indian incursions, and consequently our forts were without suffi- 
cient garrisons. 

Under these circumstances he appeals to Congress in the fol- 
lowing language : " But the dangerous and hostile attitude of 
the States toward each other has already far transcended and cast 
in the shade the ordinary executive duties already provided for 


by law, and has assumed such vast and alarming proportions as 
to place the subject entirely above and beyond executive control. 
The fact cannot be disguised that we are in the midst of a great 
revolution. In all its various bearings, therefore, I commend 
the question to Congress, as the only human tribunal, under 
Providence, possessing the power to meet the existing emergency. 
To them exclusively belongs the power to declare war, or to 
authorize the employment of military force in all cases contem- 
plated by the Constitution ; and they alone possess the power to 
remove grievances which might lead to war, and to secure peace 
and union to this distracted country. On them, and on them 
alone, rests the responsibility." 

Congress might, had they thought proper, have regarded the 
forcible seizure of these forts and other property, including that 
of the Branch Mint at New Orleans with all the treasure it con- 
tained, as the commencement of an aggressive war. Beyond 
question the cotton States had now committed acts of open hos- 
tility against the Federal Government. They had always con- 
tended that secession was a peaceful constitutional remedy, and 
that Congress had no power to make war against a sovereign 
State for the purpose of coercing her to remain in the Union. 
They could no longer shelter themselves under this plea. „ They 
had by their violent action entirely changed the position they 
had assumed ; and instead of peacefully awaiting the decision 
of Congress on the question of coercion, they had themselves be- 
come the coercionists and assailants. This question had, there- 
fore, passed away. No person has ever doubted the right or the 
duty of Congress to pass laws enabling the President to defend 
the Union against armed rebellion. Congress, however, still 
shrunk from the responsibility of passing any such laws. This 
might have been commendable had it proceeded from a sincere 
desire not to interpose obstacles to a compromise intended to pre- 
vent the effusion of fraternal blood and restore the Union. Still 
in any event the time had arrived when it was their duty to 
make at the least contingent provisions for the prosecution of the 
war, should this be rendered inevitable. This had become the 
more necessary as Congress would soon expire, and the new Con- 
gress could not be convened for a considerable period after the 


old one had ceased to exist, because a large portion of the Rep- 
resentatives had not then been elected. These reasons, however, 
produced no effect. 

The President's special message * was referred, two days after 
its date (10th January), by the House of Representatives to a 
special committee, of which Mr. Howard, of Michigan, was 
chairman. Nothing was heard from this committee for the 
space of twenty days. They then, on the 30th January, through 
Mr. John H. Reynolds, of New York, one of its members, re- 
ported a bill f enabling the President to call forth the militia or to 
accept the services of volunteers for the purpose of protecting 
the forts, magazines, arsenals, and other property of the United 
States ; and to " recover possession " of such of these as " has 
been or may hereafter be unlawfully seized or taken possession 
of by any combination of persons whatever" Had this bill be- 
come a law, it would have been the duty of the President at 
once to raise a volunteer or militia force to recapture the forts 
which had been already seized. But Congress was not then 
prepared to assume such a responsibility. Mr. Reynolds accord- 
ingly withdrew his bill from the consideration of the House on 
the very day it was reported. On his own motion it was recom- 
mitted, and thus killed as soon as it saw the light. It was never 
heard of more. 

Then, after another pause of nineteen days, and only a fort- 
night before the close of the session, the Committee on Military 
Affairs, through Mr. Stanton, of Ohio, their chairman, on the 
18th February reported another bill § on the subject, but of a 
more limited character than that which had been withdrawn. It 
is remarkable that it contains no provision touching the recovery 
of the forts and other property which had been already seized by 
the delinquent States. It did no more than provide that the 
powers already possessed by the President, under the Act of 
1795, to employ the militia in suppressing insurrections against 
a State Government, should be " extended to the case of insur- 
rections against the authority of the United States," with the 
additional authority to " accept the services of such volunteers 

* Con. Globe, p. 316. t Ibid., p. 645, bills of H. R., No. 698. 

§ Ibid., p. 1001, bill 1003, H. R. 


as may offer their services for the purpose mentioned." Thus 
all hostile action for the recovery of the forts already seized was 
excluded from the bill. It is difficult to conceive what reasona- 
ble objection could be made to this bill, except that it did not 
go far enough and embrace the forts already seized ; and more 
especially as when it was reported we may recollect that the 
Confederate Congress had already been ten days in session at 
Montgomery, Alabama, and had adopted a Provisional Consti- 
tution. JSTotwithstanding all this, the House refused to act upon 
it. The bill was discussed on several occasions until Tuesday, 
26th February. On that day a motion was made by Mr. Cor- 
win, of Ohio, to postpone its consideration until Thursday, the 
28th February.* Mr. Stanton, the reporter of the bill, resisted 
this motion, stating that such a postponement would be fatal to 
it. " It will," said* he, " be impossible after that to have it 
passed by the Senate " (before the 4th March). He, therefore, 
demanded the ayes and noes ; and notwithstanding his warning, 
Mr. Corwin's motion prevailed by a vote of 100 to Y4, and thus 
the bill was defeated. 

It may be proper to observe that Mr. Corwin, whose motion 
killed the bill, was a confidential friend of the President elect, 
then present in Washington, and was soon thereafter appointed 
minister to Mexico. 

But even had Congress passed this bill, it would have proved 
wholly inefficient for want of an appropriation to carry it into 
effect. The Treasury was empty ; but had it been full, the 
President could not have drawn from it any, even the most 
trifling sum, without a previous appropriation by law. The 
union of the purse with the sword, in the hands of the Execu- 
tive, is wholly inconsistent with the idea of a free government. 
The power of the legislative branch to withhold money from 
the Executive, and thus restrain him from dangerous projects 
of his own, is a necessary safeguard of liberty. This exists 
in every government pretending to be free. Hence our Con- 
stitution has declared that " no money shall be drawn from the 
Treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law." 
It is, therefore, apparent that even if this bill had become a 

* Con. Globe, 1232. 


law, it could not have been carried into effect by the President 
without a direct violation of the Constitution. Notwithstand- 
ing these insuperable obstacles, no member of either House, 
throughout the entire session, ever even proposed to raise or appro- 
priate a single dollar for the defence of the Government against 
armed rebellion. Congress not only refused to grant the President 
the authority and force necessary to suppress insurrections against 
the United States ; but the Senate, by refusing to confirm his 
nomination of a collector of the customs for the port of Charles- 
ton, effectually tied his hands and rendered it impossible for him 
to collect the revenue within that port. In his annual message 
he had expressed the opinion that " the same insuperable obsta- 
cles do not lie in the way of executing the [existing] laws for the 
collection of customs on the seaboard of South Carolina as had 
been interposed to prevent the administration of justice under 
the Federal authority within the interior of that State." At all 
events he had determined to make the effort with the naval 
force under his command. He trusted that this might be accom- 
plished without collision ; but if resisted, then the force neces- 
sary to attain the object must be applied. Accordingly, whilst 
informing Congress " that the revenue still continues to be col- 
lected as heretofore at the custom house in Charleston," he says 
that " should the collector unfortunately resign, a successor may 
be appointed to perform this duty." The collector (William F. 
Colcock) continued faithfully to perform his duties until some 
days after the State had seceded, when at the end of December 
he resigned. The President, immediately afterwards, on the 2d 
January, nominated to the Senate, as his successor, Mr. Peter 
Mclntire, of Pennsylvania, a gentleman well qualified for the 
office. The selection could not have been made from South 
Carolina, because no citizen of that State would have accepted 
the appointment. The Senate, throughout their entire session, 
never acted upon the nomination of Mr. Melntire ; and without 
a collector of customs duly appointed, it was rendered impossi- 
ble for the President, under any law in existence, to collect the 

But even if the Senate had confirmed Mr. Mclntire's nomi- 

nation, it is extremely doubtful whether the President could 

160 me. Buchanan's administration 

lawfully have collected the revenue against the forcible resist- 
ance of the State, nnless Congress had conferred additional 
powers npon him. For this purpose Mr. Bingham, of Ohio, on 
the 3d January, 1861,* the day after Mr. Mclntire's nomina- 
tion to the Senate, reported a bill from the Judiciary Commit- 
tee, further to provide for the collection of duties on imports. 
This bill embraced substantially the same provisions, long since 
expired, contained in the Act of 2d March, 1833, commonly 
called " the Force Bill," to enable General Jackson to collect 
the revenue outside of Charleston, " either upon land or on 
board any vessel." Mr. Bingham's bill was permitted to slum- 
ber on the files of the House until the 2d March, the last day 
but one before Congress expired,f when he moved for a suspen- 
sion of the rules, to enable the House to take it up and consider 
it, but his motion proved unsuccessful. Indeed, the motion was 
not made until so late ^n hour of the session that even if it had 
prevailed, the bill could not have passed both Houses before the 
final adjournment. Thus the President was left both without 
a collector of customs, and most probably without any law 
which a collector could have carried into effect, had such an 
officer existed. Mr. Bingham's bill shared the fate of all other 
legislative measures, of whatever character, intended either to 
prevent or to confront the existing danger. From the persist- 
ent refusal to pass any act enabling either the outgoing or the 
incoming administration to meet the contingency of civil war, 
it may fairly be inferred that the friends of Mr. Lincoln, in and 
out of Congress, believed he would be able to settle the existing 
difficulties with the cotton States in a peaceful manner, and 
that he might be embarrassed by any legislation contemplating 
the necessity of a resort to hostile measures. 

The 36th Congress expired on the 3d March, 1861, leaving 
the law just as they had found it. They made no provision 
whatever for the suppression of threatened rebellion, but delib- 
erately refused to grant either men or money for this purpose. 
It was this violation of duty which compelled President Lin- 
coln to issue a proclamation convening the new Congress, in 
special session, immediately after the attack on Fort Sumter. 

* Con. Globe, p. 236, bills H. R., No. 910. f H. Journal, p. 465 



Urgent and dangerous emergencies may have arisen, or may 
hereafter arise in the history of onr country, rendering delay 
disastrous, such as the bombardment of Fort Sumter by the 
Confederate Government, which would for the moment justify 
the President in violating the Constitution, by raising a military 
force without the authority of law, but this only during a recess 
of Congress. Such extreme cases are a law unto themselves. 
They must rest upon the principle that it is a lesser evil to 
usurp, until Congress can be assembled, a power withheld from 
the Executive, than to suffer the Union to be endangered, either 
by traitors at home or enemies from abroad. In all such cases, 
however, it is the President's duty to present to Congress, imme- 
diately after their next meeting, the causes which impelled him 
thus to act, and ask for their approbation ; just as, on a like 
occasion, a British minister would ask Parliament for a bill of 
indemnity. It would be difficult, however, to conceive of an 
emergency so extreme as to justify or even excuse a President 
for thus transcending his constitutional powers whilst Congress, 
to whom he could make an immediate appeal, was in session. 
Certainly no such case existed during the administration of the 
late President. On the contrary, not only was Congress actually 
in session, but bills were long pending before it for extending 
his authority in calling forth the militia, for enabling him to 
accept the services of volunteers, and for the employment of the 
navy, if necessary, outside of ports of entry for the collection 
of the revenue, all of which were eventually rejected. Under 
these circumstances, had the President attempted, of his own 
mere will, to exercise these high powers, whilst Congress were 
at the very time deliberating whether to grant them to him or 
not, he would have made himself justly liable to impeachment. 
This would have been for the Executive to set at defiance both 
the Constitution and the legislative branch of the Government. 

162 me. Buchanan's administration 


The forts in Charleston harbor — Conduct toward them and the reasons for it — To 
guard against surprise reinforcements ready — Instructions to Major Anderson — 
Interview with South Carolina members — General Scott ag'ain recommends the 
garrisoning of all the forts — Reasons against it — The compromise measures still 
depending — Want of troops — Observations on General Scott's report to Pres- 
ident Lincoln — His letter to Secretary Seward, and the manner in which it, with 
the report, was brought to light and published — Mr. Buchanan's reply to the re- 
port — General Scott's statement of the interview with President Buchanan on 
15th December, and observations thereupon — The example of General Jackson in 
1833, and why it was inapplicable. 

It is now necessary to recur to the condition of the forts and 
other public property of the United States within South Caro- 
lina, at the date of the President's annual message, on the 3d 
December, 1860. In regard to that property the message says : 
" This has been purchased for a fair equivalent, by the consent 
of the Legislature of the State, for the ' erection of forts, maga- 
zines, arsenals,' and over these the authority c to exercise exclu- 
sive legislation ' has been expressly granted by the Constitution 
to Congress. It is not believed that any attempt will be made 
to expel the United States from this property by force, but if in 
this I should prove to be mistaken, the officer in command of 
the forts has received orders to act strictly on the defensive. In 
such a contingency the responsibility for consequences would 
rightfully rest upon the heads of the assailants." Thus if war 
must come, the President had determined to fix the whole re- 
sponsibility for its commencement on South Carolina. In order 
to estimate correctly the wisdom of this defensive policy, it is 
necessary to revert to the condition of the country on the 3d 
t December, 1860, when it was announced. At this period we 


may divide the Southern States into three classes, holding opin- 
ions variant from each other. 

1. There was South Carolina, which had been the avowed 
and persistent advocate of disunion for more than a quarter of 
a century. She had already called a Convention for the pur- 
pose of seceding from the Union. Her leading secessionists 
were ever on the alert to seize upon any action of the Federal 
Government which they might wrest to the purpose of alienat- 
ing the other slaveholding States from their attachment to the 
Union, and enlisting them in her cause. 

2. The second class was composed of the six other cotton 
States. The people of these, although highly excited against 
the abolitionists, were still unwilling to leave the Union. They 
would have been content, notwithstanding the efforts of seces- 
sion demagogues, with a simple recognition "of their adjudged 
rights to take slaves into the Territories, and hold them there 
like other property, until a territorial convention, assembled to 
frame a State constitution, should decide the question. To this 
decision, whatever it might be, they professed their willingness to 
submit. Indeed, as has already been seen from the statements 
of Messrs. Douglas and Toombs in the Senate, they would have 
consented to abandon their rights in all the Territories north of 
36° 30', leaving what should remain to them little more than a 

3. The third class consisted of the border slaveholding States, 
with Virginia at the head. A large majority of their people, 
although believing in the right of peaceful secession, had resisted 
all the efforts of the extreme men in their midst, and were still 
devoted to the Union. Of this there could be no better proof 
than the result of the election held in Yirginia, February 4, 
1861, for the choice of delegates to her State Convention, even 
after the cotton States had all seceded.* This showed that a 
very large majority of the delegates elected were in favor of 
remaining in the Union. 

Under these circumstances, it is easy to imagine what would 
have been the effect on the other Southern States of sending a 
feeble force of United States troops to Fort Moultrie at this criti- 

* Appleton's Annual Cyclopoedia for 1861, p. 730. 

164 me. Buchanan's administeation 

cal conjuncture. Had collision been the consequence, and blood 
been shed immediately before the meeting of Congress, the 
other cotton States, from their well-known affinities, would have 
rushed to the support of South Carolina, She would thus have 
accomplished her long-sought object. Indeed, it was the current 
report of the day that her leading disunionists had declared the 
spilling of a little blood would be necessary to secure the coop- 
eration of other Southern States. Besides, in the President's 
opinion, there was no necessity, at the time, for any reinforce- 
ment to secure the forts in the harbor of Charleston. He was 
convinced that while the other slaveholding States were ready 
and willing to compromise with the North, South Carolina would 
not dare to attack Fort Moultrie. This conviction did not 
spring from any confidence in her spirit of forbearance ; it 
arose from a certain knowledge that such an outrage would be 
condemned not only by the border but by the cotton States. It 
would estrange and separate them from her, at the very moment 
she was most solicitous to conciliate them. Whoever was in 
Washington at the time cannot fail to recollect the denunciations 
in advance of leading Southern men against such an unprovoked 
attack. The public property stood within her limits — three 
forts, a custom house, an arsenal, and a post office, covered by 
the flag of the country. From these she knew she had nothing 
to fear unless she should first make the attack. Such an out- 
rage as the seizure of a fort of the United States by any State 
had never before been imagined. There must be a fearful sus- 
pense between the conception and the commission of such an 
act. It was the supreme object of the President to promote, by all 
the means in his power, such a fair and honorable adjustment be- 
tween the North and the South as would save the country from 
the scourge of civil war. It was, therefore, his evident policy to 
isolate South Carolina, as far as possible, from the other South- 
ern States ; and for this purpose to refrain from any act which 
might enable her to enlist them in her cause. If, after all, she 
should attack Fort Moultrie, this act would have met their uni- 
versal condemnation. Besides, nothing short of such an attack 
could have united the people of the North in suppressing her re- 
volt. They were then far from being prepared for civil war. 


On the contrary, they were intent on a peaceful solution of our 
difficulties, and would have censured any act of the administra- 
tion which might have defeated this purpose and precipitated 
them into hostilities. The true policy was that expressed by 
President Lincoln to the seceded cotton States in his inaugural 
months afterward, in which he informs them, " You can have no 
conflict without being yourselves the aggressors." Although the 
President believed (and this with good cause, as the event has 
shown), that under the existing circumstances, South Carolina 
would not attack any of the forts in the harbor of Charleston 
whilst he suffered their status quo to remain ; yet in this it was 
possible he might be mistaken. To guard against surprise after 
the secession of the State, which was then imminent, he had pre- 
pared an expedition as powerful as his limited means would 
afford, to send reinforcements to Major Anderson, at the first 
moment of danger. For this purpose the Secretary of the Navy 
had stationed the Brooklyn, a powerful war steamer, then com- 
pletely ready for sea, in Hampton Roads, to take on board for 
Charleston three hundred disciplined troops, with provisions and 
munitions of war, from the neighboring garrison of Fortress 

Having thus provided for the reenforcement of the forts, in 
case of need, the Secretary of War despatched Assistant Adju- 
tant-General Buell to Major Anderson, at Fort Moultrie, with 
instructions how he should act in his present position. These 
were communicated to him on the 11th December, 1860. 
Whilst they instructed the Major to avoid every act of aggres- 
sion, they directed him, in case of an attack upon, or an attempt 
to take possession of, any of the three forts under his command, 
to defend them to the last extremity. Furthermore, he was 
authorized, as a precautionary measure, should he believe his 
force insufficient for the defence of all three, to remove it at his 
discretion from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter, whenever he 
should have tangible evidence of a design, on the part of South 
Carolina, to proceed to a hostile act. We say to Fort Sumter, 
because the third fort, Castle Pinckney, was wholly indefensi- 
ble. From the important bearing of these instructions upon 
subsequent events, they are entitled to textual insertion. They 


are as follows : * " You are aware of the great anxiety of the 
Secretary of War, that a collision of the troops with the people 
of the State shall be avoided, and of his studied determination 
to pursue a course with reference to the military force and forts 
in this harbor, which shall guard against such a collision. He 
has, therefore, carefully abstained from increasing the force at 
this point, or taking any measures which might add to the pres- 
ent excited state of the public mind, or which would throw any 
doubt on the confidence he feels that South Carolina will not 
attempt by violence to obtain possession of the public works or 
interfere with their occupancy. But as the counsel and acts of 
rash and impulsive persons may possibly disappoint these expec- 
tations of the Government, he deems it proper that you shall be 
prepared with instructions to meet so unhappy a contingency. He 
has, therefore, directed me verbal]y to give you such instructions. 
You are carefully to avoid every act which would needlessly 
tend to provoke aggression, and for that reason you are not, 
without evident and imminent necessity, to take up any position 
which could be construed into the assumption of a hostile atti- 
tude, but you are to hold possession of the forts in this harbor, 
and if attacked you are to defend yourself to the last extremity. 
The smallness of your force will not permit you, perhaps, to 
occupy more than one of the three forts, but an attack on or 
attempt to take possession of either one of them will be regarded 
as an act of hostility, and you may then put your command into 
either of them which you may deem most proper to increase its 
power of resistance. You are also authorized to take similar 
defensive steps whenever you have tangible evidence of a design 
to proceed to a hostile act." * 

The President having observed that Major Buell, in reducing 
to writing at Fort Moultrie the instructions he had verbally re- 
ceived, required Major Anderson, in case of attack, to defend 
himself to the last extremity, immediately caused the Secretary 
of "War to modify this instruction. This extreme was not re- 
quired by any principle of military honor or by any rule of 
war. It was sufficient for him to defend himself unti] no reason- 
able hope should remain of saving the fort. The instructions 

* Ex. Doc, H. R., vol. vi., No. 26, p. 10. 


were accordingly so modified, with the approbation of General 

The President having determined not to disturb the status quo 
at Charleston, as long as our troops should continue to be hospi- 
tably treated by the inhabitants, and remain in unmolested pos- 
session of the forts, was gratified to learn, a short time thereafter, 
that South Carolina was equally intent on preserving the peace. 
On the 8th December, 1860, four of the Representatives in 
Congress from that State sought an interview, and held a con- 
versation with him concerning the best means of avoiding a 
hostile collision between the parties. In order to guard against 
any misapprehension on either side, he suggested that they had 
best reduce their verbal communication to writing, and bring it 
to him in that form. Accordingly, on the 10th December, they 
delivered to him a note, dated on the previous day, and signed 
by five members, in which they say : " In compliance with 
our statement to you yesterday, we now express to you our 
strong convictions that neither the constituted authorities, nor 
any body of the people of the State of South Carolina, will 
either attack or molest the United States forts in the harbor of 
Charleston, previously to the action of the Convention ; and we 
hope and believe not until an offer has been made, through an 
accredited representative, to negotiate for an amicable arrange- 
ment of all matters between the State and the Federal Govern- 
ment, provided that no reinforcements be sent into these forts, 
and their relative military status shall remain as at present." * 
Both in this and in their previous conversation, they declared 
that in making this statement, they were acting solely on their 
own responsibility, and expressly disclaimed any authority to 
bind their State. They, nevertheless, expressed the confident 
belief that they would be sustained both by the State authori- 
ties and by the Convention, after it should assemble. Although 
the President considered this declaration as nothing more than 
the act of Hye highly respectable members of the House from 
South Carolina, yet he welcomed it as a happy omen, that by 
means of their influence collision might be prevented, and time 
afforded to all parties for reflection and for a peaceable adjust- 

* Ex. Doc, H. R., vol. vi., No. 96, p. 9, &c. 

168 mr. Buchanan's administration 

ment. From abundant caution, however, lie objected to the 
word " provided " in their statement, lest, if he should accept it 
without remark, this might possibly be construed into an agree- 
ment on his part not to reenforce the forts. Such an agreement, 
he informed them, he would never make. It would be impossi- 
ble for him, from the nature of his official responsibility, thus to 
tie his own hands and restrain his own freedom of action. Still, 
they might have observed from his message, that he had no 
present design, under existing circumstances, to change the con- 
dition of the forts at Charleston. He must, notwithstanding, 
be left entirely free to exercise his own discretion, according to 
exigencies as they might arise. They replied that nothing was 
further from their intention than such a construction of this 
word ; they did not so understand it, and he should not so con- 
sider it. 

It was at this moment, on the 15th December, 1860, after 
the President's policy had been fixed and announced in his an- 
nual message ; after the " Brooklyn " had been made ready to go 
to the relief of Major Anderson in case of need ; after he had 
received instructions in accordance with this policy ; after the 
President's pacific interview with the South Carolina members, 
and before any action had yet been taken on the first Critten- 
den Compromise, that General Scott deemed it proper to renew 
his former recommendation to garrison the nine Southern forti- 
fications. This appears from his report to President Lincoln, 
of the 30th March, 1861, entitled " Southern Forts ; a Sum- 
mary," &c, of which we shall often hereafter have occasion to 
speak. It is scarcely a lack of charity to infer that General 
Scott knew at the time when he made this recommendation 
(on the 15th December) that it must be rejected. The Presi- 
dent could not have complied with it, the position of affairs still 
remaining unchanged, without at once reversing his entire pol- 
icy, and without a degree of inconsistency amounting almost to 
self-stultification. The Senators from the cotton States and 
from Virginia, where these forts are situated, were still occupied 
with their brother Senators in devising measures of peace and 
conciliation. For this patriotic purpose the Committee of Thir- 
teen were about to be appointed, and they remained in session 


until the last day of the month. Meanwhile all the Southern 
Senators in Congress professed their willingness to adopt the Crit- 
tenden Compromise, so much and so Justly lauded afterwards by 
General Scott himself. If at this moment, whilst they were en- 
gaged in peaceful consultation with Senators from the North, the 
President had despatched military expeditions to these nine forts, 
it was easy to foresee what would be the disastrous effect, not 
only in the cotton, but in all the border States. Its first effect 
would have been to dissolve the existing conferences for a peace- 
able adjustment. 

This, the General's second recommendation, was wholly un- 
expected. He had remained silent for more than six weeks from 
the date of his supplemental " Views," convinced, as the President 
inferred, that he had abandoned the idea of garrisoning all these 
forts with " the five companies only " within his reach. Had 
the President never so earnestly desired to reenforce the nine 
forts in question, at this time, it would have been little short of 
madness to undertake the task, with the small force at his com- 
mand. Without authority to call forth the militia or accept the 
services of volunteers for the purpose, this whole force now con- 
sisted of six hundred recruits, obtained by the General since the 
date of his " Views," in addition to the five regular companies. 
Our army was still out of reach on the remote frontiers, and 
could not be withdrawn, during midwinter, in time for this mili- 
tary operation. Indeed, the General had never suggested such a 
withdrawal. He knew that had this been possible, the inhab- 
itants on our distant frontiers would have been immediately ex- 
posed to the tomahawk and scalping knife of the Indians. Our 
weak condition in regard to troops within reach is demonstrated 
by the insignificant number of these he was able to collect in 
Washington on the 4th March following. This w T as to resist an 
attempt which he apprehended w T ould be made by an armed 
force to prevent the inauguration of President Lincoln and to 
seize the public property. The General was so firmly convinced 
of the reality of this plot, that nothing could shake his faith. It 
was in vain that a committee of the House of Representatives, 
after hearing the General himself, and after full investigation, had 
reported that his apprehensions were unfounded.* Besides, the 

* February 14, 1861. House Reports of Committees, vol. ii., No. 79. 

170 mk. Buchanan's administration 

President, relying on his own sources of information, had never 
entertained any similar apprehensions. The stake, notwith- 
standing, was so vast and#he General so urgent, that he granted 
him permission to bring to Washington all the troops he could 
muster to resist an imaginary but dreaded enemy. The whole 
number of these, including even the sappers and miners whom 
he had withdrawn from West Point, amounted to no more than 
six hundred and fifty-three, rank and file. These troops, with a 
portion of the district militia, the General had posted in differ- 
ent parts of the city, and had stationed sentinels on the tops of 
the highest houses and other eminences, so that all was ready to 
attack the enemy at the first moment of their appearance ; but 
never did an inauguration pass more peacefully and quietly. It 
is due to President Lincoln to state, that throughout his long 
progress in the same carriage with the late President, both on 
the way to the Capitol and the return from it, he was far from 
evincing the slightest apprehension of danger. 

Had the President attempted to distribute the General's 
thousand men, as he proposed, among the numerous forts in the 
cotton States, as well as Fortress Monroe, their absurd inade- 
quacy to the object would have exhibited weakness instead of 
strength. It would have provoked instead of preventing colli- 
sion. It would have precipitated a civil war with the cotton 
States without the slightest preparation on the part of Congress, 
and would at once have destroyed the then prevailing hopes of 
compromise. Worse than all, it would have exasperated Virginia 
and the other border States, then so intent on remaining in the^r 
Union, and might have driven them at once into hostile action. 

And now it becomes our painful duty to examine the report 
of General Scott to President Lincoln of 30th March, 1861. 
This was first published at the General's instance, eighteen 
months after its date, in the " National Intelligencer " of the 
21st October, 1862. It cannot be denied that the report through- 
out is an indiscriminate censure of President Buchanan's conduct 
in dealing with the Southern forts. It evidently proceeded from 
a defective memory prejudiced by a strong bias. It rests mainly 
on vague and confused recollections of private conversations 
alleged to have been held with the President several months 


before its date. These having occurred between the commander- 
in-chief and the commanding General of the army, on important 
military questions, pertaining to their respective official duties, 
were, in their nature, strictly confidential. Were this otherwise, 
it would destroy that freedom and unreserve which ought to 
characterize such consultations, and instead thereof, the parties 
would be ever on their guard in the interchange of opinions, often 
greatly to the prejudice of the public interest. Had the General 
resolved to violate a confidence as sacred as that between the Pres- 
ident and a member of his Cabinet, such is the treachery of the 
best human memory, he ought, at the least, to have submitted 
his statements to Mr. Buchanan before he had embodied them 
in his report. Had he done this, we venture to say from the 
sequel that most of them would have never seen the light. • 

When President Buchanan retired from office, he had reason 
to believe he had parted from the General on terms mutually 
amicable. Although in former years their friendly intercourse 
had been for a season interrupted, yet he believed all this had 
been forgotten. A suspicion never entered his mind that the 
General held in reserve a quiver of arrows to assail his public 
character upon his retirement from office. 

This report does not allege that it had been made in conse- 
quence of a call from President Lincoln. From its face it ap- 
pears to have been a pure volunteer offering on the part of the 
General. It deals with the past and not with the future. It is 
remarkable that it does not contain a word of advice to President 
Lincoln, such as might have been expected from the command* 
ing General, as to the manner of recovering the forts which 
before its date had been already seized by the Confederates. On 
the contrary, it reveals the strange fact that the General, so late 
as the 12th March, and after the so-called Confederate Govern- 
ment of the cotton States was in full operation at Montgomery, 
had advised President Lincoln to evacuate Fort Sumter, and this 
in direct opposition to what had been the well-known and oft- 
expressed determination of Mr. Buchanan. We need scarcely 
remark that President Lincoln acted wisely in disregarding this 
counsel. It was founded on an alleged military necessity. Had 
the fort been actually invested by a hostile force so superior as 

172 me. Buchanan's administration 

to render resistance hopeless, this would have justified a capitu- 
lation in order to save a useless sacrifice of life. Its voluntary 
abandonment, however, to the Confederacy, would have gone 
far toward a recognition of their independence. 

The General, in this report, would have President Lincoln 
believe, on the authority of a Richmond newspaper, that " had 
Scott been able to have got these forts in the condition he desired 
them to be, the Southern Confederacy would not now exist." 
Strange hallucination ! In plain English, that South Carolina, 
which throughout an entire generation had determined on dis- 
union, and had actually passed an ordinance of secession to carry 
this purpose into effect, and the remaining six powerful cotton 
States ready to follow her evil example, unless their adjudged 
rights should be recognized by Congress, and which together 
have since sent into the field such numerous and powerful 
armies, would at once have been terrified into submission by the 
distribution of four hundred troops in October, or one thousand 
in December, among their numerous fortifications ! 

Yery different must have been his opinion on the 3d March 
following, when he penned his famous letter to Secretary Seward. 
In this he exclaims : " Conquer the seceded [cotton] States 
by invading armies. No doubt this might be done in two or 
three years by a young and able general — a Wolfe, a Dessaix, a 
Hoche, with three hundred thousand disciplined men, estimating 
a third for garrisons, and the loss of a yet greater number by 
skirmishes, sieges, battles and Southern fevers. The destruction 
of life and property on the other side would be frightful, however 
perfect the moral discipline of the invaders. The conquest 
completed, at that enormous waste of human life to the North 
and the Northwest, with at least $250,000,000 added thereto, 
and cui bono f Fifteen devastated provinces ! not to be brought 
into harmony with their conquerors, but to be held for genera- 
tions by heavy garrisons, at an expense quadruple the net duties 
or taxes it would be possible to extort from them, followed by a 
protector or an emperor." In view of these fearful forebodings, 
we are not surprised that he should have despaired of the 
Union, and been willing to say to the cotton States, " Wayward 
sisters, depart in peace." Nor that he should have fallen back 


on his opinion expressed in the " "Views " (29th October, 1860), 
that " a smaller evil [than such a civil war] would be to allow 
the fragments of the great Republic to form themselves into new 

The General, however, in the same letter to Secretary 
Seward, presents his alternative for all these evils. He advises 
Mr. Lincoln's administration " to throw off the old and assume 
a new designation — the Union party ; adopt the conciliatory 
measures proposed by Mr. Crittenden, or the Peace Convention, 
and my life upon it, we shall have no new case of secession, but, 
on the contrary, an early return of many if not all of the States 
which have already broken off from the Union. Without some 
equally benign measure, the remaining slaveholding States will 
probably join the Montgomery Confederacy in less than sixty 
days, when this city, being included in a foreign country, would 
require a permanent garrison of at least thirty-five thousand 
troops." His advice to adopt the Crittenden Compromise would 
have been excellent had it been given to his Republican friends 
in Congress in the previous December, before any State had 
seceded, and before any fort Ijad been seized, instead of then 
recommending to President Buchanan to despatch small bands 
of United States soldiers to each of the forts. This recommen- 
dation, had it been followed at the time, would at once have 
defeated this very Crittenden Compromise, so much desired, and 
served only to provoke the cotton States into secession. It 
would have been the stone of Cadmus cast among the armed 
men sprung from the dragon's teeth, and the signal for imme- 
diate fratricidal war and mutual destruction. The *f dvice to 
President Lincoln was out of season, after both the Crittenden 
Compromise and the measures proposed by the Peace Conven- 
tion had been finally rejected by Congress, and whilst the Con- 
federacy of the cotton States was in active existence. 

Before we proceed to analyze in further detail the General's 
report, it is curious to note the reason for its publication. This 
was a consequence of the publication of his letter to Secretary 
Seward, which was in its very nature confidential. At this 
period, in October, 1862, when the rebellion had assumed a for- 
midable aspect, and when his sinister predictions appeared to 

174 me. Buchanan's administeation 

be in the course of fulfilment, he read the original draft, in his 
own handwriting, to a friend. This gentleman, whilst extolling 
the far-seeing sagacity and the prophetic spirit it displayed, 
begged for the draft as an invaluable keepsake. This appeal 
to the General proved irresistible. The manuscript was deliv- 
ered to the friend, who soon thereafter read it, amid great ap- 
plause, at a public meeting in the city of New York, and whilst 
a highly excited political canvass was depending for the office of 
Governor. The letter thus published, implying a direct censure 
on President Lincoln for not having followed the advice it had 
given, created no little astonishment, because of the prevalent 
belief at the time, that the General was under many obligations 
to the administration for liberal and indulgent treatment in the 
face of discomfiture and defeat. The letter having thus been 
first published by his friend, it was soon thereafter republished 
in the " National Intelligencer," of the 21st October, 1862, un- 
der the General's own authority, and in addition, a copy of his 
report to President Lincoln. Why he thus connected these two 
documents, so distinct and even opposite in character, it would 
be difficult to decide. It has been conjectured he may have 
thought that the censure of Mr. Buchanan in the report might 
prove an antidote to that against Mr. Lincoln in the Seward 
letter. "Whatever may have caused the publication of this re- 
port, Mr. Buchanan has cause to rejoice that it was brought to 
light during his lifetime. It might, otherwise, have slumbered 
on the secret files of the Executive Department until after his 
death, and then been revealed to posterity as authentic history. 
And here it is proper to mention, that a few days after the pub- 
lication of the report, Mr. Buchanan replied to it in a letter 
published in the " National Intelligencer," of the 1st Novem- 
ber, 1862. This gave rise to a correspondence between himself 
and General Scott, which, on both sides, was formally addressed 
to the editors of that journal, and was published by them in 
successive numbers. This continued throughout the autumn. 
It might at first be supposed that the errors in the report had 
been sufficiently exposed in the course of this correspond- 
ence ; but in the present historical sketch of President Bu- 
chanan's conduct, it is impossible to pass over the strictures 


made upon it by General Scott. The two are inseparably joined 

The General, in his report, prefaces the statement of his con- 
versation with President Buchanan, by saying, that on the 13th 
December he had " personally urged upon the Secretary of War 
the same ' views ' [those of the previous October], viz., strong 
garrisons in the Southern forts ; those of Charleston and Pensa- 
cola harbors at once ; those on Mobile Bay and the Mississippi 
below New Orleans, next, &c, &c. I again pointed out the 
organized companies, and the [600] recruits at the principal 
depots available for the purpose. The Secretary did not concur 
in my views." This, indeed, he could not have done so early 
as the 13th December, without placing himself in direct opposi- 
tion to the well-defined policy of the President. An interview 
was, therefore, appointed for the 15th December, between the 
President and the General. " By appointment," says the Gen- 
eral, " the Secretary accompanied me to the President, Decem- 
ber 15th, when the same topics, secessionism, &c, were again 
pretty fully discussed." He does not furnish the President's 
answer to the proposition to send strong garrisons to the South- 
ern forts. This must unquestionably have referred to the topics 
of which his mind was then full, viz., the promising aspect of 
compromise at the moment ; the certain effect of such a meas- 
ure in defeating it; the inadequacy of the force at command 
for so extended an operation ; and the policy which had been 
laid down in his annual message. Not a word of all this. But 
the General's memory seems to have improved with the lapse 
of years and the progress of the rebellion. In his report to 
President Lincoln, he speaks of but one conversation with Pres- 
ident Buchanan, that of the 15th December, whilst in his letter 
of the 8th November, 1862, to the " National Intelligencer," a 
portion of the correspondence to which we have referred, he 
alleges he had, on the 28th and 30th of the same December, 
repeated the recommendation to garrison all the Southern forts. 
In this statement, if material, it would be easy to prove he was 
mistaken. Indeed, President Buchanan has in his possession a 
note from the General himself, dated on Sunday, 30th Decem- 
ber, stating that by indisposition he was confined to the house 

176 me. Buchanan's administration 

on that day, and could not therefore call upon him. Of this 

According to the report, he merely mentions in general terms 
the recruits he had obtained for the expedition, without allot- 
ting them among the several forts. According to the letter, he 
informed President Buchanan that the number of recruits at 
New York and Carlisle barracks was about six hundred, "be- 
sides the five companies of regulars near at hand, making about 
one thousand men." And he also stated how he would distrib- 
ute them among the several forts. In this distribution he left 
only " about two hundred men for the twin forts of Moultrie 
and Sumter, Charleston harbor." He also declared in this let- 
ter, that*" he considered the force quite adequate to the occa- 
sion." But, as if rendered conscious of its inadequacy by the 
logic of events, he alleges that President Buchanan " might 
have called forth volunteers to garrison these forts, without any 
special legislation," and this, too, " with the full approbation of 
every loyal man in the Union." That is, that on the 15th De- 
cember, 1860, before any State had seceded, he might without 
law have usurped this authority, when the law-making power 
was actually in session and had made no movement to grant it, 
and when all were intent, not on war, but on measures of com- 
promise. In this letter he charges the Secretary of War, "with 
or without the President's approbation," with " having nearly 
denuded our whole eastern seaboard of troops." In doing this, 
he must surely have forgotten that he himself had eloquently 
urged that all the force on the frontiers was not sufficient for the 
protection of our distant fellow-citizens, and had therefore advo- 
cated the raising of an additional force by Congress for this 
very purpose. 

It would seem from the report that the President confined 
his observations at their interview exclusively to the reinforce- 
ment of the forts in Charleston harbor, for which General Scott, 
according to his own statement, in the letter to the " National 
Intelligencer," could spare but two hundred men, the remaining 
eight hundred being required for the other fortifications. The 
President having expressed the opinion, according to the report, 
" that there was at the moment no danger of an early secession 


beyond South Carolina," he proceeded to state, " in reply to my 
[General Scott's] arguments for immediately reenforcing Fort 
Moultrie, and sending a garrison to Fort Sumter," that " the 
time has not arrived for doing so ; that he should wait the action 
of the Convention of South Carolina, in the expectation that a 
commission would be appointed and sent to negotiate with him 
and Congress, respecting the secession of the State and the prop- 
erty of the United States held within its limits ; and that if Con- 
gress should decide against the secession, then he would send a 
reenforcement, and telegraph the commanding officer (Major 
Anderson) of Fort Moultrie to hold the forts (Moultrie and 
Sumter) against attack." 

Now it is probable that in the course of this conversation, 
the President may have referred to the rumor then current, that 
the South Carolina Convention intended to send commissioners 
to Washington to treat with the Government, but it is quite 
impossible he could have stated that the reenforcement of the 
forts should await the result of their mission. Why? Because 
the Brooklyn had been for some time ready to proceed to 
Fort Moultrie, dependent on no other contingency than that 
of its attack or danger of attack. Least of all was it possible 
the President could have said that if Congress should decide 
against secession, he would then telegraph to Major Anderson 
"to hold the forts (Moultrie and Sumter) against attack," when 
instructions of a similar but stronger character had already been 
sent and delivered to him, and were of record in the War De- 
partment. It is strange that the President should, according to 
the General, have made any future action in regard to these 
forts dependent upon his own decision, or that of Congress, on 
the question of secession, when he had in his annual message, but 
a few days before, condemned the doctrine as unconstitutional, 
and he well knew it would be equally condemned by Congress. 

It is curious to note a trait of the fault-finding temper of the 
General in this conversation. In it he makes the Secretary of 
War observe, " with animation," " We have a vessel of war (the 
Brooklyn) held in readiness at Norfolk, and he would then send 
three hundred men in her from Fort Monroe to Charleston ; " 
but the General objected to this arrangement, saying in answer, 

178 me. Buchanan's administration 

" that so many men could not be withdrawn from that garrison, 
but could be taken from New York," &c., &c. In this report 
to President Lincoln the General exultingly declares, " that if 
the Secretary's three hundred men had then (on the 15th De- 
cember), or some time later, been sent to Forts Moultrie and 
Sumter, both would now have been in the possession of the 
United States," &c. And again, " It would have been easy to re- 
enforce this fort (Sumter) down to about the 12th February." In 
making these declarations, he must surely have forgotten not 
only his own objection to sending these very " three hundred 
men " from Fortress Monroe, but also the fate of the Star of 
the West, in the early part of January, with his recruits from 
New York, which had been substituted under his advice and 
direction for the ^Brooklyn. 

The reader must have observed that we speak argumenta- 
tively and doubtingly of the General's statement of this conver- 
sation. We do this simply because President Buchanan, al- 
though a party to it, has no recollection whatever of its particu- 
lars. The reason doubtless is, that, believing General Scott to 
have been aware before the interview that the President would 
not violate his announced policy by sending one thousand men 
to all the Southern forts, or two hundred to those in Charleston 
harbor, he must have considered this renewed recommendation 
rather a matter of form, springing from a motive which he will 
not attempt to conjecture, than any thing more serious. But 
whatever may have been the cause of his want of memory, the 
fact is certainly true. He sincerely wishes it were otherwise. 

We may observe generally in regard to this report, that the 
attempt, at the end of more than three months, filled with the 
most important and stirring events, to write out charges against 
President Buchanan, must almost necessarily do him injustice. 
Fairly to accomplish such a task, the writer ought to have tested 
his own recollection by a reference to dates and official documents 
within his reach. Not having done this, the report is confused 
throughout, sometimes blending in the same sentence occur- 
rences of distinct date and opposite nature. When these come 
to be unravelled, it will appear in the sequel that they are often 
contradicted by official and other unimpeachable testimony. 


And here it is due to General Scott to mention, that on the 
evening of their interview (15th December), he addressed a note 
to President Buchanan, reminding him that General Jackson, 
during the period of South Carolina nullification, had sent rein- 
forcements to Fort Moultrie to prevent its seizure by the nulli- 
fiers and to enforce the collection of the revenue. This example 
was doubtless suggested for imitation. But the times had greatly 
changed during more than a quarter of a century which had 
since elapsed. In 1833 South Carolina stood alone. She had 
then the sympathy of no other Southern State. Her nullifica- 
tion was condemned by them all. Even her own people were 
almost equally divided on the question. But instead of this, in 
December, 1860, they were unanimous, and the other cotton 
States were preparing to follow her into secession, should their 
rights in the Territories be denied by Congress. Besides, the 
President had already declared his purpose to collect the reve- 
nue by the employment of vessels of war stationed outside of the 
port of Charleston, whenever its collection at the custom house 
should be resisted. He hoped thereby to avoid actual collision ; 
but, whether or not, he had resolved at every hazard to collect 
the revenue. Such was the state of affairs on the 15th Decem- 
ber, 1860. Meanwhile the forts and all other public property 
were unmolested, and Major Anderson and his troops continued 
to be supplied and treated in the kindest manner. 

180 me. Buchanan's administeation 


South Carolina adopts an ordinance of secession, and appoints Commissioners to 
treat with the General Government — Their arrival in Washington — Major Ander- 
son's removal from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter — The President's interview with 
the Commissioners, who demand a surrender of all the forts — His answer to this 
demand — Their insolent reply, and its return to them — Its presentation to the Sen^. 
ate by Mr. Davis — Secretary Floyd requested to resign — He resigns and becomes 
a secessionist — Fort Sumter threatened — The Brooklyn ordered to carry reen- 
forcements to the fort — The Star of the West substituted at General Scott's in- 
stance — She is fired upon — Major Anderson demands of Governor Pickens a 
disavowal of the act — The Governor demands the surrender of the fort — The 
Major proposes to refer the question to "Washington — The Governor accepts — Colo- 
nel Hayne and Lieutenant Hall arrive in Washington on the 13th January — The 
truce — Letter from Governor Pickens not delivered to the President until the 31st 
January — The answer to it — Colonel Hayne's insulting reply — It is returned to 
him — Virginia sends Mr. Tyler to the President with a view to avoid hostilities — 
His arrival in Washington and his proposals — Message of the President. 

On the 20th December, 1860, the South Carolina Convention 
adopted an ordinance of secession, and on the 22d appointed 
three of their most distinguished citizens to proceed forthwith 
to Washington to treat with the Government of the United 
States concerning the relations between the parties. These 
were Robert W. Barnwell, James H. Adams, and James L. Orr. 
They arrived in Washington on Wednesday, the 26th Decem- 
ber. On the next morning they received intelligence by tele- 
graph that Major Anderson had, on Christmas night, secretly 
dismantled Fort Moultrie ; had spiked his cannon, had burnt 
his gun-carriages, and had removed with his troops to Fort 
Sumter, as if from an impending attack. This information they 
sent to the President. He received it with astonishment and 
regret. With astonishment, because he had believed Major 
Anderson to be in security at Fort Moultrie; and this more 


especially whilst the commissioners appointed but three days 
before were on their way to Washington. With regret, because 
this movement would probably impel the other cotton and 
border States into active sympathy with South Carolina, and 
thereby defeat the measures of compromise still before the Com- 
mittee of Thirteen of the Senate, from which he had hoped to 
confine secession to that State alone. The President never 
doubted for a moment that Major Anderson believed before the 
movement that he had "the tangible evidence " of an impending 
attack required by his instructions. Still it was difficult to im- 
agine that South Carolina would be guilty of the base perfidy 
of attacking any of these forts during the pendency of her mis- 
sion to Washington, for the avowed purpose of preserving the 
peace and preventing collision. Such treacherous conduct would 
have been considered infamous among all her sister States. She 
has always strenuously denied that such was her intention. 

In this state of suspense the President determined to await 
official information from Major Anderson himself. After its 
receipt, should he be convinced upon full examination that the 
Major, on a false alarm, had violated his instructions, he might 
then think seriously of restoring for the present the former status 
quo of the forts. This, however, was soon after known to be 
impossible, in consequence of the violent conduct of South Car- 
olina in seizing all the other forts and public property in the 
harbor and city of Charleston. 

It was under these circumstances that the President, on 
Friday, the 28th December, held his first and only interview 
with the commissioners from South Carolina. He determined 
to listen with patience to what they had to communicate, taking 
as little part himself in the conversation as civility would per- 
mit. On their introduction he stated that he could recognize 
them only as private gentlemen and not as commissioners from 
a sovereign State ; that it was to Congress, and to Congress 
alone, they must appeal. He, nevertheless, expressed his willing- 
ness to communicate to that body, as the only competent tribunal, 
any propositions they might have to offer. They then proceeded, 
evidently under much excitement, to state their grievances 
arising out of the removal of Major Anderson to Fort Sumter, 


and declared that for these they must obtain redress preliminary 
to entering upon the negotiation with which they had been in- 
trusted ; that it was impossible for them to make any proposi- 
tion until, this removal should be satisfactorily explained ; and 
they even insisted upon the immediate withdrawal of the Major 
and his troops, not only from Fort Sumter, but from the harbor 
of Charleston, as a sine qua non to any negotiation. 

In their letter to the President of the next day, they repeat 
this demand, saying : * " And, in conclusion, we would urge upon 
you the immediate withdrawal of the troops from the harbor of 
Charleston. Under present circumstances they are a standing 
menace which renders negotiation impossible, and, as our recent 
experience shows, threatens to bring to a bloody issue questions 
which ought to be settled with temperance and judgment." 
This demand, accompanied by an unmistakable threat of attack- 
ing Major Anderson if not yielded, was of the most extravagant 
character. To comply with it, the commissioners must have 
known, would be impossible. Had they simply requested that 
Major Anderson might be restored to his former position at Fort 
Moultrie, upon a guarantee from the State that neither it nor the 
other forts or public property should be molested ; this, at the 
moment, might have been worthy of serious consideration. 
But to abandon all these forts to South Carolina, on the demand 
of commissioners claiming to represent her as an independent 
State, would have been a recognition, on the part of the Execu- 
tive, of her right to secede from the Union. This was not to be 
thought of for a moment. 

The President replied to the letter of the commissioners 
on Monday, 31st December. In the mean time information 
had reached him that the State authorities, without waiting 
to hear from "Washington, had, on the day after Major Ander- 
son's removal, seized Fort Moultrie, Castle Pinckney, the cus- 
tom house, and post office, and over them all had raised the Pal- 
metto nag ; and moreover, that every officer of the customs, 
collector, naval officer, surveyor, appraisers, together with the 
postmaster, had resigned their appointments ; and that on Sun- 
day, the 30th December, they had captured from Major Hum- 

* Ex. Doc, H. R., vol. vi., No. 26, p. 6. 


phreys, the officer in charge, the arsenal of the United States, 
containing public property estimated to be worth half a million 
of dollars. The Government was thus expelled from all its 
property except Fort Sumter, and no Federal officers, whether 
civil or military, remained in the city or harbor of Charleston. 
The secession leaders in Congress attempted to justify these vio- 
lent proceedings of South Carolina as acts of self-defence, on the 
assumption that Major Anderson had already commenced hos- 
tilities. It is certain that their tone instantly changed after his 
removal ; and they urged its secrecy, the hour of the night when 
it was made, the destruction of his gun-carriages, and other at- 
tendant incidents, to inflame the passions of their followers. It 
was under these circumstances that the President was called 
upon to reply to the letter of the South Carolina commissioners, 
demanding the immediate withdrawal of the troops of the United 
States from the harbor of Charleston. In this reply he peremp- 
torily rejected the demand in firm but courteous terms, and de- 
clared his purpose to defend Fort Sumter by all the means in his 
power against hostile attacks, from whatever quarter they might 
proceed. ( Vide his letter of the 31st December, 1860, Ex. Doc. 
No. 26, H. P., 36th Congress, 2d Session, accompanying Presi- 
dent's message of 8th January, 1861.) To this the commissioners 
sent their answer, dated on the 2d January, 1861. This was so 
violent, unfounded, and disrespectful, and so regardless of what 
is due to any individual whom the people have honored with the 
office of President, that the reading of it in the Cabinet excited 
indignation among all the members. With their unanimous 
approbation it was immediately, on the day of its date, returned 
to the commissioners with the following indorsement: "This 
paper, just presented to the President, is of such a character that 
he declines to receive it." Surely no negotiation was ever con- 
ducted in such a manner, unless, indeed, it had been the prede- 
termined purpose of the negotiators to produce an open and im- 
mediate rupture. 

It may be asked, why did the President, at his interview with 
the South Carolina commissioners, on the 28th December, offer 
to lay the propositions they had to make before Congress, when 
he must have been morally certain they would not meet a favor- 

184 me. buchakan's administration 

able response ? This was to gain time for passion to subside, 
and for reason to resume her sway ; to bring the whole subject 
before the representatives of the people in such a manner as to 
cause them to express an authoritative opinion on secession, and 
the other dangerous questions then before the country, and 
adopt such measures for their peaceable adjustment as might 
possibly reclaim even South Carolina herself ; but whether or 
not, might prevent the other cotton States from following her 
evil and rash example. 

The insulting letter of the commissioners, which had been 
returned to them, was notwithstanding presented to the Senate 
by Mr. Jefferson Davis, immediately after the reading of the 
President's special message of the 8th January ; and such was 
the temper of that body at the time, that it was received and 
read, and entered upon their journal. Mr. Davis, not content 
with this success, followed it up by a severe and unjust attack 
against the President, and his example was followed by several 
of his adherents. From this time forward, as has been already 
stated, all social and political intercourse ceased between the 
disunion Senators and the President. 

It is worth notice, that whilst this letter of the commission- 
ers was published at length in the " Congressional Globe," 
among the proceedings of the Senate, their previous letter to 
the President of the 28th December, and his answer thereto of 
the 31st, were never published in this so-called official regis- 
ter, although copies of both had accompanied his special mes- 
sage. By this means the offensive letter was scattered broad- 
cast over the country, whilst the letter of the President, to 
which this professed to be an answer, was buried in one of the 
numerous and long after published volumes of executive docu- 

It is proper to advert to the allegation of the commissioners, 
in their letter of the 28th December, that the removal of Major 
Anderson to Fort Sumter was made in violation of pledges 
given by the President. They also say that " since our arrival 
an officer of the United States, acting, as we are assured, not 
only without but against your orders, has dismantled one fort 
and occupied another, thus altering to a most important extent 


the condition of affairs under which we came." As to the al- 
leged pledge, we have already shown that no such thing existed. 
It has never been pretended that it rests npon any pretext ex- 
cept the note of the 9th December, delivered to the President 
by the South Carolina members of Congress, and what occurred 
on that occasion. All this has been already stated. But if ad- 
ditional evidence were wanting to refute the assertion of a 
pledge, this might be found in the statement published after- 
wards in Charleston by two of their number (Messrs. Miles and 
Keitt),* who, in giving an account of this interview, do not 
pretend or even intimate that any thing passed even in their 
opinion on either side in the nature of a pledge. By what offi- 
cer, then, was the assurance given to the commissioners since 
their arrival in Washington, that Major Anderson had acted 
not only without but against the President's order ? It was 
none other than the Secretary of War himself, notwithstanding 
it was in obedience to his own instructions but a few days before 
that the removal was made from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter. 
This appears from the letter of Major Anderson to the War 
Department of the 27th December, the day after his removal, 
which unfortunately did not arrive in Washington until some 
days after its date. In this he says : " I will add that many 
things convinced me that the authorities of the State designed 
to proceed to a hostile act " (against Fort Moultrie), the very 
contingency on which the Secretary had not only authorized 
but directed the Major to remove his troops to Fort Sumter, 
should he deem this a position of greater security. These in- 
structions were in a certain sense peculiarly his own. They 
were prepared and transmitted to Major Anderson by himself. 
Throughout they do not mention the name of the President, 
though in the main they expressed his views. 

We can refer to a probable cause for this strange conduct on 
the part of the Secretary. This was, that three days before the 
South Carolina commissioners reached Washington, the Presi- 
dent had communicated to him (23d December), through a dis- 
tinguished friend and kinsman of his own, a request that he 
should resign his office, with a statement of the reason why this 

* Appleton's "American Annual Cyclopaedia" for 1861, p. 703. 

186 me. Buchanan's administeation 


was made. "When he heard this request he displayed much 

feeling, but said he would comply with the President's wishes. 
It is proper to state the reason for this request. On the night 
before it was made (22d December), the fact was first made 
known to the President that 870 State bonds for $1,000 each, 
held in trust by the Government for different Indian tribes, had 
been purloined from the Interior Department by Godard Bailey, 
the clerk in charge of them, and had been delivered to William 
H. Russell, a member of the firm of " Eussell, Majors & Wad- 
dell." Upon examination, it was discovered that this clerk, in 
lieu of the bonds abstracted, had from time to time received bills 
of corresponding amount from Kussell, drawn by the firm on 
John B. Floyd, Secretary of War, and by him accepted and 
indorsed, and this without any lawful authority. In conse- 
quence there was found in the safe where the Indian bonds had 
been kept, a number of these accepted bills, exactly equal in 
amount to $870,000. These acceptances were thirteen in num- 
ber, commencing on the 13th September, 1860, and had been 
received by Mr. Bailey, according to his own statement, " as 
collateral security for the return of the bonds," and as such had 
been placed by him in the safe. It is remarkable that the last 
of them, dated on the 13th December, 1860, for $135,000, had 
been drawn for the precise sum necessary fb make the aggregate 
amount of the whole number of bills exactly equal to that of 
the abstracted bonds. 

And here it is due to Secretary Thompson to state, though 
a digression, that on Monday morning, the 24th December, at 
his own instance, the House of Representatives appointed a 
committee " to investigate and report upon the subject," of 
which Hon. Mr. Morris, of Illinois, a rancorous opponent of the 
administration, was the chairman. After a full investigation, 
the committee made their report on the 12th February, 1861.* 
In this they state : " They deem it but justice to add that they 
have discovered nothing to involve the late Secretary, Hon. 
Jacob Thompson, in the slightest degree in the fraud, and nothing 
to indicate that he had any complicity in the transaction, or that 
he had any knowledge of it until the time of the disclosure by 

* Keport of Committee, H. R., 1860-'61, vol. ii., No. 78, p. 3. 


Godard Bailey." It is to be regretted, for the sake of public 
justice, that all the circumstances connected with the abstraction 
of these bonds had not been subjected to a judicial investigation. 
This was rendered impossible by the action of the committee 
itself, in examining John B. Floyd and William H. Russell as 
witnesses. For this reason they were relieved from all criminal 
responsibility by the Act of Congress of the 24th January, 1857,* 
of the existence of which the committee seem to have been igno- 
rant. This act provides that no person examined as a witness 
before a committee of either House of Congress, " shall be held 
to answer criminally in any court of justice for any fact or act " 
" touching which he shall have testified." In this manner both 
Mr. Floyd and Mr. Bussell escaped without trial. 

To return from our digression. Secretary Floyd's apparent 
complicity with this fraudulent transaction covered him with 
suspicion, and, whether this were well or ill founded, rendered it 
impossible, in the opinion of the President, that he should re- 
main in the Cabinet ; and hence the request that he should re- 
sign. What effect this request may have produced in suddenly 
converting him from having been until then an avowed and con- 
sistent opponent of secession to one of its most strenuous sup- 
porters, may be readily inferred. Certain it is, that immediately 
after the arrival of the South Carolina commissioners, he became 
the intimate associate of leading secession Senators, who had 
just before been in the habit of openly condemning his official 

On the evening of the day after the arrival of these commis- 
sioners he boldly assumed his new position, and became the only 
witness to a pledge which his own instructions of a few days 
before prove could never have existed. On that evening, in the 
face of all these facts, he read to the President, in Cabinet coun- 
cil, in a discourteous and excited tone, hitherto unknown, a paper 
declaring that " it is evident now, from the action of the com- 
mander at Fort Moultrie, that the solemn pledges of this Gov- 
ernment have been violated by Major Anderson," and that " one 

* 11 Laws U. S., p. 155. 


remedy only is left, and that is to withdraw the garrison from 
the harbor of Charleston altogether." This evidently foreshad- 
owed the demand made by the commissioners on the following 
day (28th December), of which we have already treated. This 
proposition the President heard with astonishment. As he had 
stated in his reply to them of the 31st December : " Such an 
idea was never thought of by me. ~Ho allusion had ever been 
made to it in any communication between myself and any human 

The Secretary, on the 29th December, sent to the President 
the resignation of his office. By this he offered to discharge its 
duties until his successor should be appointed. It was instantly 
accepted without reference to this offer, and Postmaster General 
Holt was transferred to the War Department. 

The President had not made the personal acquaintance of 
Mr. Floyd before his appointment. Though never in Congress, 
he had been, like his father, Governor of Virginia. Mr. Bu- 
chanan had been favorably impressed by the fact that he had 
refused to accept a recommendation from the Electoral College 
of Virginia for a seat in the Cabinet, assigning as a reason that 
the President, in making selections for this high and confiden- 
tial office, ought to be left free and untrammelled to the exer- 
cise of his own judgment. 

The removal of Major Anderson to Fort Sumter, and the 
seizure by South Carolina of all the remaining public property 
at Charleston, altogether changed the aspect of affairs from what 
it had been at the date of the interview between General Scott 
and the President. Fort Sumter was now threatened with an 
immediate attack. The time had arrived for despatching the 
Brooklyn on her destined expedition for its relief. At this crisis 
General Scott, being too unwell to call in person, addressed a 
note to the President, on Sunday, the 30th December, asking 
his permission to send, without reference to the "War Depart- 
ment, and otherwise as secretly as possible, two hundred and 
fifty recruits from ISTew York harbor to reenforce Fort Sumter, 
together with some extra muskets or rifles, ammunition and sub- 
sistence stores, expressing the hope " that a sloop-of-war and 


cutter may be ordered for the same purpose as early as to-mor- 
row " (31st December). 

The President immediately decided to order reinforcements ; 
but lie preferred to send them by the Brooklyn, which had re- 
mained in readiness for this service. He thought that a pow- 
erful war steamer with disciplined troops on board would prove 
more effective than a sloop-of-war and cutter with raw recruits. 
Accordingly on the next morning (Monday) he instructed the Sec- 
retaries of War and the Navy to despatch the Brooklyn to Fort 
Sumter. On the evening of this day the General called to con- 
gratulate him on the fact that the Secretaries had already issued 
appropriate orders to the respective army and navy officers, and 
stated that these were then in his own pocket. 

In contradiction to this prompt action, it is difficult to im- 
agine how the General could have asserted, in his report to 
President Lincoln, that " the South Carolina commissioners had 
already been many days in Washington, and no movement of 
defence [on the part of the United States] had been permitted." 
In regard to the " many days' " delay : — These commissioners ar- 
rived in Washington on the 26th December ; the General sent his 
request to the President on Sunday, the 30th ; and on Monday 
morning he himself received the necessary orders for the depart- 
ure of the expedition. General Scott, notwithstanding this 
prompt response to his request, proceeds still further, and charges 
the President with having " refused to allow any attempt to be 
made " to reenforce Fort Sumter, " because he was holding ne- 
gotiations with the South Carolina commissioners," although 
this alleged refusal occurred at the very time (31st December) 
when he himself had in his own hands the order for the Brook- 
lyn to proceed immediately to Fort Sumter. ISTay, more : " After- 
wards," says the General, " Secretary Holt and myself endeav- 
ored, in vain, to obtain a ship-of-war for the purpose, and were 
finally obliged to employ the passenger steamer Star of the West" 
After this statement, will it be credited that the Star of the West 
was employed in place of the Brooklyn at the pressing instance 
of General Scott himself? And yet such is the fact. The Presi- 
dent yielded to this unfortunate change with great reluctance, 

190 mr. Buchanan's administration 

and solely in deference to the opinion of the commanding Gen 
eral on a question of military strategy. "What a failure and 
confusion of memory the report to President Lincoln exhibits ! 

At the interview with President Buchanan on the evening 
of the 31st December, the General seemed cordially to approve 
the matured plan of sending reinforcements by the Brooklyn. 
Why, then, the change in his opinion % At this interview the 
President informed him he had sent a letter but a few hours be- 
fore to the South Carolina commissioners, in answer to a com- 
munication from them, and this letter would doubtless speedily 
terminate their mission ; — that although he had refused to recog- 
nize them in an official character, yet it might be considered 
improper to transmit the orders then in his possession to the 
Brooklyn until they had an opportunity of making a reply, and 
that the delay for this purpose could not, in his opinion, exceed 
forty-eight hours. In this suggestion the General promptly con- 
curred, observing that it was gentlemanly and proper. lie, 
therefore, retained the orders to await the reply. On the morn- 
ing of the 2d January the President received and returned the 
insolent communication of the South Carolina commissioners 
without an answer, and thus every obstacle was removed from 
the immediate transmission of the orders. In the mean time, 
however, the General had unluckily become convinced, after 
advising with an individual believed to possess much knowledge 
and practical experience in naval affairs, that the better plan to 
secure both secrecy and success would be to send to Fort Sumter 
a fast side- wheel mercantile steamer from New York with the 
two hundred and fifty recruits. 

Such was the cause of the change, according to the undoubted 
information communicated to the President at the time by the 
Secretaries of War and the Navy. For this reason alone was 
the Star of the West substituted for the service instead of the 
Brooklyn. The change of programme caused a brief delay ; but 
the Star of the West, with recruits on board, left New York for 
Charleston on the afternoon of the 5th January. On the even- 
ing of the same day, however, on which this ill-fated steamer 
went to sea, General Scott despatched a telegram to his son-in- 


law, Colonel Scott, of the United States army, then at New 
York, to countermand her departure; but this did not reach him 
until after she had left the harbor. 

The cause of this countermand proves how much wiser it 
would have been to employ the Brooklyn in the first instance on 
this important service. This shall be stated in the language of 
Secretary Holt in his letter of the 5th March, 1861, in reply to 
certain allegations which had been made and published * by Mr. 
Thompson, the late Secretary of the Interior. In this he says : 
" The countermand spoken of (by Mr. Thompson) was not more 
cordially sanctioned by the President than it was by General 
Scott and myself; not because of any dissent from the order on 
the part of the President, but because of a letter received that day 
from Major Anderson, stating, in effect, that he regarded him- 
self secure in his position ; and yet more from intelligence which 
late on Saturday evening (5th January, 1861) reached the De- 
partment, that a heavy battery had been erected among the sand 
hills, at the entrance to Charleston harbor, which would prob- 
ably destroy any unarmed vessel (and such was the Star of the 
West) which might attempt to make its way to Fort Sumter. 
This important information satisfied the Government that there 
was no present necessity for sending reinforcements, and that 
when sent they should go not in a vessel of commerce, but of 
war. Hence the countermand was despatched by telegraph to 
New York; but the vessel had sailed a short time before it 
reached the officer (Colonel Scott) to whom it was addressed." 

General Scott, as well as the Secretaries of War and the 
Navy, convinced of the blunder which had been committed in 
substituting the Star of the West for the Brooklyn, proceeded to 
provide, as far as might be possible, against anticipated disaster. 
For this purpose the Secretary of the Navy, on the 7th January, 
despatched an order to the commander of the Brooklyn (Farra- 
gut), and General Scott simultaneously forwarded to him a 
despatch to be delivered to the U. S. officer in command of 
the recruits on the Star of the West. By this the commander 
of the recruits was informed that Captain Farragut had been in- 

* " National Intelligencer," 5th March, 1861 



structed 'to afford him " aid and succor in case your [his] ship be 
shattered or injured ; second, to convey this order of recall, in 
case you cannot land at Fort Sumter, to Fort Monroe, Hampton 
Roads, there to await further orders." In a postscript he was 
further directed " to land his troops at Fort Monroe and dis- 
charge the ship." The sequel will show that these precautions 
were useless. 

The Star of the West, under the command of Captain 
McGowan, proceeded on her ill-starred voyage, amid anxious 
apprehensions for the fate of the recruits and mariners on board. 
She arrived in Charleston harbor on the 9th of January, the flag 
of the United States flying at her mast-head ; and whilst en- 
deavoring to approach Fort Sumter, was fired upon by order of 
Governor Pickens. She then immediately changed her course 
and returned to ISTew York. Fortunately no lives were lost, nor 
was the vessel materially injured. This statement of facts proves 
incontestably that the President, so far from refusing, was not 
only willing but anxious, within the briefest period, to reen force 
Fort Sumter. 

On the very day and immediately after this outrage on the 
Star of the West, Major Anderson sent a flag to Governor 
Pickens, informing him of the reason why he had not opened fire 
from Fort Sumter on the batteries which had attacked the Star 
of the West. This was because he presumed the act had been 
unauthorized. He demanded its disavowal, and if this were not 
sent in a reasonable time he would consider it war, and fire on 
any vessel that attempted to leave the harbor. Had he adhered 
to his purpose, the civil war would then have commenced. This 
demand of Major Anderson, so worthy of an American officer, 
was totally disregarded by the Governor. Instead of disavow- 
ing the act or apologizing for it, he had the audacity, but two 
days after the outrage, to send the Hon. A. G. Magrath and 
General D. F. Jamison, whom he styled as " both members of 
the Executive Council and of the highest position in the State," 
to Major Anderson, for the purpose of persuading him to surren- 
der the fort. In the letter which they bore from the Governor, 
dated on the 11th January, they were instructed to present to 


Major Anderson " considerations of the gravest public character, 
and of the deepest interest to all who deprecate the improper 
waste of life, to induce the delivery of Fort Sumter to the consti- 
tuted authorities of the State of South Carolina, with a pledge 
on its part to account for such public property as may be in 
your charge." 

This Major Anderson appears to have regarded, not merely 
as an effort to persuade him voluntarily to surrender the fort, 
but as an absolute demand for its surrender. In either case, 
however, his instructions, already quoted, prescribed his line of 
duty. Under these he ought to have peremptorily informed the 
emissaries of the Governor that he would not surrender, but 
would defend the fort against attack by all the means in his 
power. In this course he would not only have obeyed his in- 
structions, but have acted in accordance with the explicit deter- 
mination of the President, announced but eleven days before 
(31st December) to the South Carolina commissioners. But 
Major Anderson, notwithstanding these considerations, as well 
as his own declared purpose but two days before to consider the 
attack on the Star of the West as war, and to act accordingly, 
unless it should be explained and disavowed, now proposed to 
Governor Pickens to refer the question of surrender to Washing- 
ton. In his answer of the same date to the Governor's menacing 
request, whilst stating that he could not comply with it, and 
deeply regretting that the Governor should have made a demand 
of him with which he could not comply, he presents the follow- 
ing alternative : " Should your Excellency deem fit, prior to a 
resort to arms, to refer this matter to "Washington, it would afford 
me the sincerest pleasure to depute one of my officers to accom- 
pany any messenger you may deem proper to be the bearer of 
your demand." This proposition was promptly accepted by the 
Governor, and in pursuance thereof he sent on his part Hon. I. 
W. Hayne, Attorney-General of South Carolina, to Washington ; 
whilst Major Anderson sent as his deputy Lieutenant J. Nor- 
man Hall, of the first artillery, then under his command in the 
fort. These gentlemen immediately set out for Washington, 
and arrived together on the evening of the 13th January, 1861. 

U4 me. Buchanan's administration 

Tims, greatly to the surprise of the President, had a truce 
or suspension of arms been concluded between Major Anderson 
and Governor Pickens, to continue, from its very nature, until he 
should again decide against the surrender of Fort Sumter. This 
was what the writers on public law denominate " a partial truce 
under which hostilities are suspended only in certain places, as 
between a town and the army besieging it." * Until this deci 
sion should be made by the President, Major Anderson had thus 
placed it out of his own power to ask for reinforcements, and 
equally out of the power of the Government to send them with- 
out a violation of the public faith pledged by him as the com- 
mandant of the fort. In the face of these facts, the President 
saw with astonishment that General Scott, in his report to Pres- 
ident Lincoln, had stated that the expedition under Captain 
Ward, of three or four small steamers, " had been kept back," 
not in consequence of this truce between Major Anderson and 
Governor Pickens, " but by something like a truce or armistice 
concluded here [in Washington], embracing Charleston and 
Pensacola harbors, agreed upon between the late President and 
certain principal seceders of South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, 
&c, and this truce lasted to the end of the administration." 
From the confused and inaccurate memory of the General, 
events altogether distinct in their nature are so blended in his 
report to President Lincoln, that it is difficult to disentangle 
them. Such is eminently the case in mixing up the facts rela- 
tive to Charleston and Pensacola in the same sentences. In 
order to render each clear, we shall first treat of Charleston and 
afterwards of Pensacola. 

The expedition of the Star of the West had scarcely re- 
turned to New York, when the news of the truce between Major 
Anderson and Governor Pickens reached Washington (13th 
January). Between the two events it was physically impossi- 
ble to prepare and send a second expedition, and this could not 
be done afterwards until the truce should expire, without a vio- 
lation of public faith. It did not last, as the General asserts, 
" to the end of the administration," but expired by its own lim- 

% * Vattel's Law of Nations, p. 404. 


itation on the 5th February, the day when Secretary Holt finally 
and peremptorily announced to the South Carolina commis- 
sioner that the President would not under any circumstances 
surrender Fort Sumter. It is possible that, under the laws of 
war, the President might have annulled this truce after due no- 
tice to Governor Pickens. This, however, would have cast a 
serious reflection on Major Anderson for having concluded it, 
who, beyond question, had acted from the purest and most pa- 
triotic motives. Neither General Scott nor any other person, 
so far as is known, ever proposed to violate it. Indeed, from 
his peculiar temper of mind and military training, he would 
have been the last man to mafee such a proposition ; and yet, in 
his report to President Lincoln, he does not make the most dis- 
tant allusion to the fact, well known to him, that such a truce 
had ever been concluded. Had he done this, he would at once 
have afforded conclusive evidence against sending reinforce- 
ments until it should expire. On the contrary, instead of the 
actual truce, " something like a truce," according to his state- 
ment, was made, not in Charleston, but in Washington, and not 
between the actual parties to it, but " between the late President 
and certain principal seceders of South Carolina." Nothing 
more unfounded and unjust could have been attributed to Pres- 
ident Buchanan. 

Major Anderson may probably have committed an error in 
not promptly rejecting the demand, as he understood it, of Gov- 
ernor Pickens for the surrender of Fort Sumter, instead of refer- 
ring it to "Washington. If the fort were to be attacked, which 
was then extremely doubtful, this was the propitious moment 
for a successful resistance. The Governor, though never so will- 
ing, was not in a condition to make the assault. He required 
time for preparation. On the other hand, Major Anderson was 
then confident in his power to repel it. This is shown by his 
letters to the War Department of the 31st December and 6th 
January. From these it appears that he not only felt safe in 
his position, but confident that he could command the harbor 
of Charleston, and hold the fort in opposition to any force which 
might be brought against him. Such was, also, the oft-expressed 

196 me. Buchanan's administration 

conviction at "Washington of Lieutenant Hall, whom he had 
selected as his deputy, as well as that of Lieutenant Theodore 
Talbot, likewise of the 1st artillery, who had left Fort Sumter 
on the 9th January, 1861, as a bearer of despatches. Still, had 
Governor Pickens attacked the fort, this would have been the 
commencement of civil war between the United States and 
South Carolina. This every patriot desired to avoid as long as 
a reasonable hope should remain of preserving peace. And 
then such a hope did extensively prevail, founded upon the ex- 
pectation that the Crittenden Compromise, or some equally 
healing measure, might be eventually adopted by Congress. 
How far this consideration may account for Major Anderson's 
forbearance when the Star of the West was fired upon, and 
for his proposal two days thereafter to refer the question of the 
surrender of the fort to Washington, we can only conjecture. If 
this were the cause, his motive deserves high commendation. 

Colonel Hayne, the commissioner from South Carolina, as 
already stated, arrived in Washington on the 13th January. 
He bore with him a letter from Governor Pickens addressed to 
the President. On the next morning he called upon the Presi- 
dent and stated that he would deliver this letter in person on 
the day following. The President, however, admonished by his 
recent experience with the former commissioners, declined to 
hold any conversation with him on the subject of his mission, 
and requested that all communications between them might be 
in writing. To this he assented. Although the President had 
no actual knowledge of the contents of the Governor's letter, 
he could not doubt it contained a demand for the surrender of 
the fort. Such a demand he was at all times prepared peremp- 
torily to reject. This Colonel Hayne must have known, be- 
cause the President had but a fortnight before informed his pre- 
decessors this was impossible, and had never been thought of by 
him in any possible contingency. The President confidently 
expected that the letter would be transmitted to him on the day 
after the interview, when his refusal to surrender the fort would 
at once terminate the truce, and leave both parties free to act 
upon their own responsibility. Colonel Hayne, however, did 


not transmit this letter to the President on the 15th January, 
according to his promise, but withheld it until the 31st of that 
month. The reason for this vexatious delay will constitute a 
curious portion of our narrative, and deserves to be mentioned 
in some detail. ( Vide the President's message of 8th Febru- 
ary, 1861, with the accompanying documents, Ex. Doc, H. R., 
vol. ix., Eo. 61.) 

The Senators from the cotton States yet in Congress ap- 
peared, strangely enough, to suppose that through their influence 
the President might agree not to send reinforcements to Fort 
Sumter, provided Governor Pickens would stipulate not to at- 
tack it. By such an agreement they proposed to preserve the 
peace. But first of all it was necessary for them to prevail upon 
Colonel Hayne not to transmit the letter to the President on 
the day appointed, because they well knew that the demand 
which it contained would meet his prompt and decided refusal. 
This would render the conclusion of such an agreement impos- 

In furtherance of their plan, nine of these Senators, with 
Jefferson Davis at their head, addressed a note to Colonel Hayne, 
on the 15th January, requesting him to defer the delivery of the 
letter. They proposed that he should withhold it until they 
could ascertain from the President whether he would agree not 
to send reinforcements, provided Governor Pickens would en- 
gage not to attack the fort. They informed the Colonel that 
should the President prove willing in the first place to enter into 
such an arrangement, they would then strongly recommend that 
he should not deliver the letter he had in charge for the present, 
but send to South Carolina for authority from Governor Pick- 
ens to become a party thereto. Colonel Hayne, in his answer 
to these Senators of the 17th January, informed them that he 
had not been clothed with power to make the arrangement sug- 
gested, but provided they could get assurances with which they 
were entirely satisfied that no reinforcements would be sent to 
Fort Sumter, he would withhold the letter with which he had 
been charged, refer their communication to the authorities of 
South Carolina, and await further instructions. 

198 me. Buchanan's administration 

On the 19 tli January this correspondence between the Sena- 
tors and Colonel Hayne was submitted to the President, accom- 
panied by a note from three of their number, requesting him to 
take the subject into consideration. His answer to this note 
was delayed no longer than was necessary to prepare it in proper 
form. On the 22d January it was communicated to these Sen- 
ators in a letter from the Secretary of "War. This contained an 
express refusal to enter into the proposed agreement. Mr. Holt 
says : " I am happy to observe that, in your letter to Colonel 
Hayne, you express the opinion that it is i especially due from 
South Carolina to our States, to say nothing of other slavehold- 
ing States, that she should, so far as she can consistently with 
her honor, avoid initiating hostilities between her and the United 
States or any other power.' To initiate such hostilities against 
Fort Sumter would, beyond question, be an act of war against 
the United States. In regard to the proposition of Colonel 
Hayne, 6 that no reinforcements will be sent to Fort Sumter in 
the interval, and that public peace will not be disturbed by 
any act of hostility toward South Carolina,' it is impossible for 
me to give you any such assurances. The President has no au- 
thority to enter into such an agreement or understanding. As 
an executive officer, he is simply bound to protect the public 
property so far as this may be practicable ; and it would be a 
manifest violation of his duty to place himself under engage- 
ments that he would not perform this duty, either for an indefi- 
nite or limited period. At the present moment it is not deemed 
necessary to reenforce Major Anderson, because he makes no 
such request and feels quite secure in his position. Should his 
safety, however, require reinforcements, every effort will be 
made to supply them." 

It was believed by the President that this peremptory refusal 
to enter into the proposed agreement, would have caused Colo- 
nel Hayne immediately to present the letter he had in charge 
and thus terminate his mission, thereby releasing both parties 
from the obligations of the truce. In this expectation the Pres- 
ident was disappointed. The secession Senators again inter- 
posed, and advised Colonel Hayne still longer to withhold the 
letter from the President, and await further instructions from 


Charleston. In his answer of 24th January to their note con- 
taining this advice, he informs them that although the letter 
from the Secretary of "War " was far from being satisfactory," 
yet in compliance with their request he " would withhold the 
communication with which he was at present charged, and refer 
the whole matter to the authorities of South Carolina, and 
would await their reply." On the 30th this reply was received, 
and on the next day Colonel Hayne transmitted to the Presi- 
dent the letter of Governor Pickens demanding the surrender 
of the fort, with a long communication from himself. This let- 
ter is dated " Headquarters, Charleston, January 12, 1861," and 
is as follows : 

" Sir : At the time of the separation of the State of South 
Carolina from the United States, Fort Sumter was, and still is, 
in the possession of troops of the United States, under the com- 
mand of Major Anderson. I regard that possession as not con- 
sistent with the dignity or safety of the State of South Caro- 
lina, and have this day [it was the day previous] addressed 
to Major Anderson a communication to obtain from him the 
possession of that fort by the authorities of this State. The 
reply of Major Anderson informs me that he has no authority 
to do what I required, but he desires a reference of the demand 
to the President of the United States. Under the circum- 
stances now existing, and which need no comment by me, I 
have determined to send to you Hon. I. "W. Hayne, the Attor- 
ney-General of the State of South Carolina, and have instructed 
him to demand the delivery of Fort Sumter, in the harbor of 
Charleston, to the constituted authorities of the State of South 
Carolina. The demand I have made of Major Anderson, and 
which 1 now make of you, is suggested by my earnest desire to 
avoid the bloodshed which a persistence in your attempt to re- 
tain possession of that fort will cause, and which will be una- 
vailing to secure to you that possession, but induce a calamity 
most deeply to be deplored. If consequences so unhappy shall 
ensue, I will secure for this State, in the demand which I now 
make, the satisfaction of having exhausted every attempt to 
avoid it. 

" In relation to the public property of the United States 

200 me. Buchanan's administration 

within Fort Sumter, the Hon. I. W. Hayne, who will hand yon 
this communication, is anthorized to give you the pledge of the 
State that the valuation of such property will be accounted for 
by this State, upon the adjustment of its relations with the 
United States, of which it was a part." 

On the 6th February, the Secretary of War, on behalf of 
the President, replied to this demand, as well as to the letter of 
Colonel Hayne accompanying it. Our narrative would be in- 
complete without this admirable and conclusive reply. It is as 
follows : 

"War Department, February 6, 1861.* 

" Sir : The President of the United States has received your 
letter of the 31st ultimo, and has charged me with the duty of 
replying thereto. 

" In the communication addressed to the President by Gov- 
ernor Pickens, under date of the 12th January, and which ac- 
companies yours now before me, his Excellency says : ' I have 
determined to send to you the Hon. I. "W. Hayne, the Attorney- 
General of the State of South Carolina, and have instructed 
him to demand the surrender of Fort Sumter, in the harbor 
of Charleston, to the constituted authorities of the State of 
South Carolina. The demand I have made of Major Ander- 
son, and. which I now make of you, is suggested because of my 
earnest desire to avoid the bloodshed which a persistence in your 
attempt to retain the possession of that fort will cause, and 
which will be unavailing to secure tg you that possession, but 
induce a calamity most deeply to be deplored.' The character 
of the demand thus authorized to be made appears (under the 
influence, I presume, of the correspondence with the Senators 
to which you refer) to have been modified by subsequent in- 
structions of his Excellency, dated the 26th, and received by 
yourself on the 30th January, in which he says : ' If it be so 
that Fort Sumter is held as property, then, as property, the 
. rights, whatever they may be, of the United States, can be as- 
certained, and for the satisfaction of these rights the pledge of 
the State of South Carolina you are authorized to give.' The 
full scope and precise purport of your instructions, as thus modi- 

* H. R. Ex. Doc, 1860-'61, vol. ix., Doc, No 61. 


fled, you have expressed in the following words : ' I do not come 
as a military man to demand the surrender of a fortress, but as the 
legal officer of the State — its attorney-general — to claim for the 
State the exercise of its undoubted right of eminent domain, 
and to pledge the State to make good all injury to the rights of 
property which arise from the exercise of the claim.' And lest 
this explicit language should not sufficiently define your posi- 
tion, you add : ' The proposition now is that her [South Caro- 
lina's] law officer should, under authority of the Governor and 
his council, distinctly pledge the faith of South Carolina to 
make such compensation, in regard to Fort Sumter and its ap- 
purtenances and contents, to the full extent of the money value 
of the property of the United States, delivered over to the 
authorities of South Carolina by your command.' You then 
adopt his Excellency's train of thought upon the subject, so far 
as to suggest that the possession of Fort Sumter by the United 
States, ' if continued long enough, must lead to collision,' and 
that ' an attack upon it would scarcely improve it as property, 
whatever the result ; and if captured, it would no longer be the 
subject of account.' 

" The proposal, then, now presented to the President, is simply 
an offer on the part of South Carolina to buy Fort Sumter and 
contents as property of the United States, sustained by a decla- 
ration, in effect, that if she is not permitted to make the purchase 
she will seize the fort by force of arms. As the initiation of a 
negotiation for the transfer of property between friendly gov- 
ernments, this proposal impresses the President as having as- 
sumed a most unusual form. He has, however, investigated the 
claim on which it professes to be based, apart from the declara- 
tion that accompanies it. And it may be here remarked, that 
much stress has been laid upon the employment of the words 
1 property ' and 6 public property ' by the President in his sev- 
eral messages. These are the most comprehensive terms which 
can be used in such a connection, and surely, when referring to 
a fort or any other public establishment, they embrace the entire 
and undivided interest of the Government therein. 

" The title of the United States to Fort Sumter is complete 
and incontestable. Were its interest in this property purely 

202 me. Buchanan's administration 

proprietary, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, it might 
probably be subjected to the exercise of the right of eminent do- 
main ; but it has also political relations to it of a much higher 
and more imposing character than those of mere proprietorship. 
It has absolute jurisdiction over the fort and the soil on which it 
stands. This jurisdiction consists in the authority to i exercise 
exclusive legislation ' over the property referred to, and is there- 
fore clearly incompatible with the claim of eminent domain now 
insisted upon by South Carolina. This authority was not de- 
rived from any questionable revolutionary source, but from the 
peaceful cession of South Carolina herself, acting through her 
legislature, under a provision of the Constitution of the United 
States. South Carolina can no more assert the right of eminent 
domain over Fort Sumter than Maryland can assert it over the 
District of Columbia. The political and proprietary rights of 
the United States in either case rest upon precisely the same 

" The President, however, is relieved from the necessity of 
further pursuing this inquiry by the fact that, whatever may be 
the claim of South Carolina to this fort, he has no constitutional 
power to cede or surrender it. The property of the United 
States has been acquired by force of public law, and can only be 
disposed of under the same solemn sanctions. The President, as 
the head of the executive branch of the government only, can no 
more sell and transfer Fort Sumter to South Carolina than he 
can sell and convey the Capitol of the United States to Mary- 
land or to any other State or individual seeking to possess it. 
His Excellency the Governor is too familiar with the Constitu- 
tion of the United States, and with the limitations upon the 
powers of the Chief Magistrate of the government it has estab- 
lished, not to appreciate at once the soundness of this legal prop- 
osition. The question of reenforcing Fort Sumter is so fully 
disposed of in my letter to Senator Slidell and others, under date 
of the 22d of January, a copy of which accompanies this, that its 
discussion will not now be renewed. I then said : ' At the present 
moment it is not deemed necessary to reenforce Major Anderson, 
because he makes no such request. Should his safety, however, 
require reinforcements, every effort will be made to supply 


them.' I can add nothing to the explicitness of this language, 
which still applies to the existing status. 

" The right to send forward reinforcements when, in the 
judgment of the President, the safety of the garrison requires 
them, rests on the same unquestionable foundation as the right 
to occupy the fortress itself. In the letter of Senator Davis and 
others to yourself, under date of the 15th ultimo, they say : ' We 
therefore think it especially due from South Carolina to our States 
— to say nothing of other slaveholding States — that she should, 
as far as she can consistently with her honor, avoid initiating hos- 
tilities between her and the United States or any other power ; ' 
and you now yourself give to the President the gratifying as- 
surance that ' South Carolina has every disposition to preserve 
the public peace ; ' and since he is himself sincerely animated by 
the same desire, it would seem that this common and patriotic 
object must be of certain attainment. It is difficult, however, 
to reconcile with this assurance the declaration on your part that 
' it is a consideration of her [South Carolina's] own dignity as a 
sovereign, and the safety of her people, which prompts her to 
demand that this property should not longer be used as a mili- 
tary post by a government she no longer acknowledges,' and the 
thought you so constantly present, that this occupation must 
lead to a collision of arms and the prevalence of civil war. 
Fort Sumter is in itself a military post, and nothing else ; and 
it would seem that not so much the fact as the purpose of its use 
should give to it a hostile or friendly character. This fortress is 
now held by the Government of the United States for the same 
objects for which it has been held from the completion of its 
construction. These are national and defensive ; and were a 
public enemy now to attempt the capture of Charleston or the 
destruction of the commerce of its harbor, the whole force of the 
batteries of this fortress would be at once exerted for their pro- 
tection. How the presence of a small garrison, actuated by such 
a spirit as this, can compromise the dignity or honor of South 
Carolina, or become a source of irritation to her people, the 
President is at a loss to understand. The attitude of that garri- 
son, as has been often declared, is neither menacing, nor defiant, 
nor unfriendly. It is acting under orders to stand strictly on the 


defensive ; and the government and people of South Carolina 
must well know that they can never receive aught but shelter 
from its guns, unless, in the absence of all provocation, they 
should assault it and seek its destruction. The intent with 
which this fortress is held by the President is truthfully stated 
by Senator Davis and others in their letter to yourself of the 15th 
January, in which they say : ' It is not held with any hostile or 
unfriendly purpose toward your State, but merely as property 
of the United States, which the President deems it his duty to 
protect and preserve.' 

" If the announcement so repeatedly made of the President's 
pacific purposes in continuing the occupation of Fort Sumter 
until the question shall have been settled by competent authority, 
has failed to impress the government of South Carolina, the for- 
bearing conduct of his administration for the last few months 
should be received as conclusive evidence of his sincerity. And 
if this forbearance, in view of the circumstances which have so 
severely tried it, be not accepted as a satisfactory pledge of the 
peaceful policy of this administration toward South Carolina, 
then it may be safely afhrmed that neither language nor conduct 
can possibly furnish one. If, with all the multiplied proofs 
which exist of the President's anxiety for peace, and of the ear- 
nestness with which he has pursued it, the authorities of that 
State shall assault Fort Sumter, and peril the lives of the hand- 
ful of brave and loyal men shut up within its walls, and thus 
plunge our common country into the horrors of civil war, then 
upon them and those they represent must rest the responsibility. 

" Yery respectfully, your obedient servant, 

"J. Holt, 

" Secretary of War. 

"Hon. I. W. Haynb, Attorney- General of the State of South Carolina. 

" P. S. — The President has not, as you have been informed, 
received a copy of the letter to yourself from the Senators, com- 
municating that of Mr. Holt of the 22d January." 

This letter of Mr. Holt, though firm and decided in charac- 
ter, is courteous and respectful, both in tone and in terms. It 


reviews the subject in an able and comprehensive manner, ex- 
plaining and justifying the conduct of the President. Unlike 
the letters to which it is a response, it contains no menace. In 
conclusion it does no more than fix the responsibility of com- 
mencing a civil war on the authorities of South Carolina, should 
they assault Fort Sumter and imperil the lives of the brave and 
loyal men shut up within its walls. It does not contain a word 
or an expression calculated to afford just cause of offence ; yet 
its statements and its arguments must have cut Colonel Hayne 
to the quick. To reply to them successfully was impossible. 
He, therefore, had no resort but to get angry. Following in the 
footsteps of his predecessors, on the 8th February he addressed an 
insulting answer not to Secretary Holt, as usage and common 
civility required, but directly to the President. He then sud- 
denly left Washington, leaving his missile behind him to be de- 
livered after his departure. From his conduct he evidently an- 
ticipated its fate. His letter was returned to him on the same 
day, directed to Charleston, with the following indorsement: 
" The character of this letter is such that it cannot be received. 
Col. Hayne having left the city before it was sent to the Presi- 
dent, it is returned to him by the first mail." What has be- 
come of it we do not know. No copy was retained, nor have 
we ever heard of it since. 

What effect this letter of Mr. Holt may have produced upon 
the truculent Governor of South Carolina we shall not attempt 
to decide. Certain it is, from whatever cause, no attack was 
made upon Fort Sumter until six weeks after the close of Mr. 
Buchanan's administration. The fort remained unmolested un- 
til South Carolina had been for some time a member of the Con- 
federate States. It was reserved for Mr. Jefferson Davis, their 
President, to issue the order for its bombardment, and thus 
formally to commence the civil war. This he did with a full 
consciousness that such would be the fatal effect ; because in the 
letter from him and other Southern Senators to Col. Hayne, 
of the 15th January, both he and they had warned Governor 
Pickens that an attack upon the fort would be " the instituting 
hostilities between her [South Carolina] and the United States." 

Thus ended the second mission from South Carolina to the 

206 me. Buchanan's administration 

President, and thus was lie relieved from the truce concluded by 
Major Anderson. But in the mean time, before the termination 
of this truce, the action of the General Assembly of Virginia, 
instituting the Peace Convention, had interposed an insur- 
mountable obstacle to the reenforcement of Fort Sumter, un- 
less attacked or in immediate danger of attack, without entirely 
defeating this beneficent measure. Among their other proceed- 
ings they had passed a resolution "that ex-President John 
Tyler is hereby appointed by the concurrent vote of each branch 
of the General Assembly, a commissioner to the President of the 
United States ; and Judge John Robertson is hereby appointed 
by a like vote, a commissioner to the State of South Carolina 
and the other States that have seceded or shall secede, with in- 
structions respectfully to request the President of the United 
States and the authorities of such States to agree to abstain, 
pending the proceedings contemplated by the action of the Gen- 
eral Assembly, from any and all acts calculated to produce a 
collision of arms between the States and the Government of the 
United States." 

Mr. Tyler arrived in Washington on the 23d January, a 
fortnight before the departure of Col. Hayne, bearing with him 
a copy of the Yirginia resolutions. -These he presented to the 
President on the following day, assuring him that whilst the 
people of Yirginia were almost universally inclined to peace and 
reconstruction, yet any efforts on her part to reconstruct or 
preserve the Union " depended for their success on her being 
permitted to conduct them undisturbed by outside collision." 

This resolution, it will be observed, requested the President, 
and not Congress, to enter into the proposed agreement. Mr. 
Tyler, therefore, urged the President to become a party to it. 
This he refused, stating, according to Mr. Tyler's report to the 
Governor of Yirginia, " that he had in no manner changed his 
views as presented in his annual message ; that he could give no 
pledges ; that it was his duty to enforce the laws, and the whole 
power rested with Congress." He promised, notwithstanding, 
that he would "present the subject to that body. This was due 
both to its intrinsic importance and to the State of Yirginia, 
which had manifested so strong a desire to restore and preserve 
the Union. 


The President, accordingly, in his message of the 28th Jan- 
uary, submitting the Virginia resolutions to Congress, observed 
in regard to this one, that " however strong may be my desire 
to enter into such an agreement, I am convinced that I do not 
possess the power. Congress, and Congress alone, under the 
war-making power, can exercise the discretion of agreeing to 
abstain i from any and all acts calculated to produce a collision 
of arms ' between this and any other Government. It would, 
therefore, be a usurpation for the Executive to attempt to re- 
strain their hands by an agreement in regard to matters over 
which he has no constitutional control. If he were thus to act, 
they might pass laws which he should be bound to obey, though 
in conflict with his agreement. Under existing circumstances, 
my present actual power is confined within narrow limits. It 
is my duty at all times to defend and protect the public prop- 
erty within the seceding States, so far as this may be practica- 
ble, and especially to employ all constitutional means to protect 
the property of the United States, and to preserve the public 
peace at this the seat of the Federal Government, If the se- 
ceding States abstain ' from any and all acts calculated to pro- 
duce a collision of arms,' then the danger so much to be depre- 
cated will no longer exist. Defence, and not aggression, has 
been fhe policy of the administration from the beginning. But 
whilst I can enter into no engagement such as that proposed, I 
cordially commend to Congress, with much confidence that it 
will meet their approbation, to abstain from passing any law 
calculated to produce a collision of arms pending the proceed- 
ings contemplated by the action of the General Assembly of 
Virginia. I am one of those who will never despair of the Re- 
public. I yet cherish the belief that the American people will 
perpetuate the union of the States on some terms just and hon- 
orable for all sections of the country. I trust that the media- 
tion of Virginia may be the destined means, under Providence, 
of accomplishing this inestimable benefit. Glorious as are the 
memories of her past history, such an achievement, both in re- 
lation to her own fame and the welfare of the whole country, 
would surpass them all." 

This noble and patriotic effort of Virginia met no favor from 

208 me. Buchanan's administration 

Congress. Neither House referred these resolutions of her Gen- 
eral Assembly to a committee, or even treated them with the 
common courtesy of ordering them to be printed. In the Sen- 
ate no motion was made to refer them, and the question to print 
them with the accompanying message was debated from time 
to time until the 21st February,* when the Peace Convention 
had nearly completed its labors, and after this no further notice 
seems to have been taken of the subject. In the House the 
motion to refer and print the Virginia resolutions, made by Mr. 
Stanton, of Ohio, on the day they were received , was never 
afterwards noticed. f This mortifying neglect on the part of the 
Kepresentatives of the States and of the people, made a deep 
and unfortunate impression on the citizens of Yirginia. 

* Con. Globe, pp. 590, 636. t H. J., p. 236. Con. Globe, p. 601. 



Fort Sumter again — An expedition prepared to relieve it — The expedition abandoned 
on account of a despatch from Major Anderson — Mr. Holt's letter to President 
Lincoln — Fort Pickens in Florida — Its danger from the rebels — The Brooklyn 
ordered to its relief — The means by which it was saved from capture approved by 
General Scott and Messrs. Holt and Toucey, with the rest of the Cabinet— Refu- 
tation of the charge that arms had been stolen — Report of the Committee on Mil- 
itary Affairs and other documentary evidence— The Southern and Southwestern 
States received less than their quota of arms— The Pittsburg cannon — General 
Scott's unfounded claim to the credit of preventing their shipment to the South — 
Removal of old muskets — Their value— Opinion of Mr. Holt in regard to the man- 
ner in which President Buchanan conducted the administration. 

It is now necessary to return to Fort Sumter. This was the 
point on which the anxious attention of the American people 
was then fixed. It was not known until some days after the 
termination of the truce, on the 6th February, that Governor 
Pickens had determined to respect the appeal from the General 
Assembly of Virginia, and refrain from attacking the fort dur- 
ing the session of the Peace Convention. It, therefore, became 
the duty of the administration in the mean time to be prepared, 
to the extent of the means at command, promptly to send suc- 
cor to Major Anderson should he so request, or in the absence 
of such request, should they ascertain from any other quarter 
that the fort was in danger. From the tenor of the Major's 
despatches to the War Department, no doubt was entertained 
that he could hold out, in case of need, until the arrival of re- 
enforcements. In this state of affairs, on the very day (30th 
January) on which the President received the demand for the 
surrender of the fort, he requested the Secretaries of War and the 
Navy, accompanied by General Scott, to meet him for the pur- 
pose of devising the best practicable means of instantly reen- 

210 me. Buchanan's administration 

forcing Major Anderson, should this be required. After several 
consultations an expedition for this purpose was quietly prepared 
at New York, under the direction of Secretary Toucey, for the 
relief of Fort Sumter, the command of which was intrusted to 
his intimate friend, the late lamented Commander Ward of the 
navy. This gallant officer had been authorized to select his 
own officers and men, who were to rendezvous on board of the 
receiving-ship, of which he was then in command. The expedi- 
tion consisted of a few small steamers, and it was arranged that 
on receiving a telegraphic despatch from the Secretary, when- 
ever the emergency might require, he should in the course of the 
following night set sail for Charleston, entering the harbor in 
the night, and anchoring if possible under the guns of Fort 

It is due to the memory of this brave officer to state that he 
had sought the enterprise, with the greatest enthusiasm, and was 
willing to sacrifice his life in the accomplishment of the object, 
should such be his fate, saying to Secretary Toucey this would 
be the best inheritance he could leave to his wife and children. 

According to General Scott's version of this affair in his 
report to President Lincoln : " At this time, when this [the truce 
on the 6th February] had passed away, Secretaries Holt and 
Toucey, Captain Ward of the navy, and myself, with the knowl- 
edge of the President [Buchanan], settled upontihe employment 
under the captain (who was eager for the expedition) of three 
or four small steamers belonging to the coast survey." But this 
expedition was kept back, according to the General ; and for 
what reason? Not because the Peace Convention remained 
still in session, and the President would not break it up by 
sending reinforcements to Fort Sumter whilst the authorities 
of South Carolina continued to respect the appeal of the Gen- 
eral Assembly of Yirginia to avoid collision, and whilst Major 
Anderson at the point of danger had asked no reinforcements. 
The General, passing over these the true causes for the delay 
in issuing the order to Commander Ward to set sail, declares this 
was kept back " by something like a truce or armistice made here 
[in Washington] between President Buchanan and the principal 
seceders of South Carolina," etc., etc., the existence of which has 


never been pretended by any person except himself. It soon 
appeared that General Scott, as well as the President and Secre- 
taries of War and the Navy, had been laboring under a great 
misapprehension in supposing, from the information received 
from Major Anderson, that this small expedition, under Com- 
mander Ward, might be able to relieve Fort Sumter. How in- 
adequate this would have proved to accomplish the object, was 
soon afterwards demonstrated by a letter, with enclosures, from 
Major Anderson to the Secretary of War. This was read by 
Mr. Holt, greatly to his own surprise and that of every other 
member of the Cabinet, on the morning of the 4th March, at 
the moment when the Thirty-sixth Congress and Mr. Buchanan's 
administration were about to expire. In this the Major declares 
that he would not be willing to risk his reputation on an attempt 
to throw reinforcements into Charleston harbor with a force 
of less than twenty thousand good and well- disciplined men. 
Commander Ward's expedition, consisting of only a few small 
vessels, borrowed from the Treasury Department and the Coast 
Survey, with but two or three hundred men on board, was ne- 
cessarily abandoned. On the next day (5th March) the Secre- 
tary of War transmitted Major Anderson's letter, with its enclos- 
ures, to President Lincoln. This he accompanied by a letter 
from himself reviewing the correspondence between the War 
Department and Major Anderson from the date of his removal 
to Fort Sumter. The following is a copy, which we submit 
without comment : 

" War Department, March 5th, 1861. 

" Sib : I have the honor to submit for your consideration 
several letters with enclosures received on yesterday from Major 
Anderson and Captain Foster, of the Corps of Engineers, which 
are of a most important and unexpected character. Why they 
were unexpected will appear from the following brief statement : 

" After transferring his forces to Fort Sumter, he (Major 
Anderson) addressed a letter to this Department, under date of 
the 31st December, 1860, in which he says : ' Thank God, we 
are now where the Government may send us additional troops 
at its leisure. To be sure the uncivil and uncourteous action of 

212 me. Buchanan's administration 

the Governor [of South Carolina], in preventing us from pur- 
chasing any thing in the city, will annoy and inconvenience us 
somewhat ; still we are safe.'' And after referring to some defi- 
ciency in his stores, in the articles of soap and candles, he adds : 
' Still we can cheerfully put up with the inconvenience of doing 
without them for the satisfaction we feel in the knowledge that 
we can command this harbor as long as our Government wishes 
to keep it? And again, on the 6th January, he wrote : ' My 
position will, should there be no treachery among the workmen 
whom we are compelled to retain for the present, enable me to 
hold this fort against any force which can be brought against 
me j and it would enable me, in the event of war, to annoy the 
South Carolinians by preventing them from throwing in supplies 
into their new posts, except by the aid of the "Wash Channel 
through Stone River.' 

" Before the receipt of this communication, the Government, 
being without information as to his condition, had despatched 
the Star of the West with troops and supplies for Fort Sumter ; 
but the vessel having been fired on from a battery at the en- 
trance to the harbor, returned without having reached her des- 

" On the 16th January, 1861, in replying to Major Anderson's 
letters of the 31st December and of 6th January, I said : ' Your 
late despatches, as well as the very intelligent statements of 
Lieutenant Talbot, have relieved the Government of the appre- 
hensions previously entertained for your safety. In consequence 
it is not its purpose at present to reenforce you. The attempt 
to do so would no doubt be attended by a coHision of arms and 
the effusion of blood — a national calamity, which the President 
is most anxious to avoid. You will, therefore, report frequently 
your condition, and the character and activity of the preparations, 
if any, which may be being made for an attack upon the fort, or 
for obstructing the Government in any endeavors it may make 
to strengthen your command. Should your despatches be of a 
nature too important to be intrusted to the mails, you will con- 
vey them by special messenger. Whenever, in your judgment, 
additional supplies or reinforcements are necessary for your 
safety or for a successful defence of the fort, you will at once 


communicate the fact to this Department, and a prompt and 
vigorous effort will be made to forward them.' 

" Since the date of this letter Major Anderson has regularly 
and frequently reported the progiess of the batteries being con- 
structed around him, and which looked either to the defence of the 
harbor, or to an attack on his own position ; but he has not sug- 
gested that these works compromised his safety, nor has he made 
any request that additional supplies or reinforcements should be 
sent to him. On the contrary, on the 30th January, 1861, in a 
letter to this Department, he uses this emphatic language : ' I do 
hope that no attempt will be made by our friends to throw sup- 
plies in ; their doing so would do more harm than good.' 

" On the 5th February, when referring to the batteries, etc., 
constructed in his vicinity, he said : ' Even in their present con- 
dition, they will make it impossible for any hostile force, other 
than a large and well-appointed one, to enter this harbor, and 
the chances are that it will then be at a great sacrifice of life ; ' 
and in a postscript he adds : ' Of course in speaking of forcing an 
entrance, I do not refer to the little stratagem of a small party 
slipping in.' This suggestion of a stratagem was well considered 
in connection with all the information that could be obtained 
bearing upon it ; and in consequence of 'the vigilance and num- 
ber of the guard-boats in and outside of the harbor, it was re- 
jected as impracticable. 

" In view of these very distinct declarations, and of the earnest 
desire to avoid a collision as long as possible, it was deemed en- 
tirely safe to adhere to the line of policy indicated in my letter 
of the 16th January, which has been already quoted. In that 
Major Anderson had been requested to report ' at once,' 6 when- 
ever, in his judgment, additional supplies or reinforcements 
were necessary for his safety or for a successful defence of the 
fort.' So long, therefore, as he remained silent upon this point, 
the Government felt that there was no ground for apprehension. 
Still, as the necessity for action might arise at any moment, an 
expedition has been quietly prepared and is ready to sail from 
New York on a few hours' notice for transporting troops and 
supplies to Tort Sumter. This step was taken under the super- 
vision of General Scott, who arranged its details, and who re- 


garded the reinforcements thus provided for as sufficient for the 
occasion. The expedition, however, is not upon a scale ap- 
proaching the seemingly extravagant estimates of Major Ander- 
son and Captain Foster, now offered for the first time, and for 
the disclosures of which the Government was wholly unprepared. 
" The declaration now made by the Major that he would not 
be willing to risk his reputation on an attempt to throw rein- 
forcements into Charleston harbor, and with a view of holding 
possession of the same, with a force of less than twenty thousand 
good and well-disciplined men, takes the Department by surprise, 
as his previous correspondence contained no such intimation. 
" I have the honor to be, 

" Very respectfully, 

" Your obedient servant, 

"To the President." 

Having pointed out the course pursued by President Bu- 
chanan in regard to Fort Sumter, we must now return to Fort 
Pickens, in Florida. This feeble State was the last from which 
a revolutionary outbreak could have reasonably been expected. 
Its numbers had not entitled it to admission into the Union, and 
a large amount of blood and treasure had been expended by the 
Government of the United States for the protection and defence 
of its inhabitants against the Seminole Indians. Nevertheless, 
weak as the State was, its troops, under the command of Colo- 
nel William H. Chase, formerly of the corps of engineers of the 
United States army, suddenly rose in rebellion, attacked the 
troops of the United States, and expelled them from Pensacola 
and the adjacent navy yard. Lieutenant Slemmer, of the artil- 
lery, and his brave little command, consisting of between sev- 
enty and eighty men, were thus forced to take refuge in Fort 
Pickens, where they were in imminent danger of being cap- 
tured every moment by a greatly superior force. 

From the interruption of regular communications with 
"Washington, Secretary Holt did not receive information of these 
events until some days after their occurrence, and then only 
through a private channel. Keenforcements were despatched 


to Fort Pickens without a moment's unnecessary delay. The 
Brooklyn, after being superseded by the Sta/r of the West, had 
fortunately remained at her old station, ready for any exigency. 
She immediately took on board a company of United States 
troops from Fortress Monroe, under the command of Captain 
Yogdes, of the artillery, and with provisions and military stores 
left Hampton Roads on the 24th January for Fort Pickens. 
The Secretary of the Navy had, with prudent precaution, with- 
drawn from foreign stations all the vessels of war which could 
possibly be spared with any regard to the protection of our for- 
eign commerce, and had thus rendered the home squadron unu- 
sually large. Several of the vessels of which it was composed 
were at the time in the vicinity of Fort Pickens. These, united 
with the Brooklyn, were deemed sufficient for its defence. " The 
fleet," says the Secretary, " could have thrown six hundred men 
into the fort (seamen and marines), without including the com- 
pany from Fortress Monroe." * 

Four days after the Brooklyn had left Fortress Monroe, Sen- 
ators Slidell, Hunter, and Bigler received a telegraphic despatch 
from Senator Mallory, of Florida, dated at Pensacola on the 
28th January, with an urgent request that they would lay it 
before the President. This despatch expressed an ardent desire 
to preserve the peace, as well as the most positive assurance 
from himself and Colonel Chase, that no attack would be 
made on the fort if its present status should be suffered to re- 
main. The President carefully considered this proposal. The 
Brooklyn might not arrive in time for the preservation of this 
important fort, and for the relief of Lieutenant Slemmer. Be- 
sides, a collision at that point between the opposing forces would 
prove fatal to the Peace Convention so earnestly urged by Vir- 
ginia, and then about to assemble. But, on the other hand, the 
fort was greatly in need of provisions, and these must at every 
hazard be supplied. Mr. Mallory and Colonel Chase must be 
distinctly informed that our fleet in the vicinity would be al- 
ways on the alert and ready to act at a moment's warning, not 
only in case the fort should be attacked, but whenever the offi- 

* His testimony before the Hale Committee and the Court-Martial on Captain 
Armstrong. Report No. 37, pp. 58, 234. 

216 me. Buchanan's administration 

cers in command should observe preparations for such an attack. 
No precaution must be omitted on their part necessary to hold 
the fort. 

The conclusion at which the President arrived, with the 
approbation of every member of his Cabinet, will be seen in the 
joint order dated on the 29th January, immediately transmitted 
by telegraph from Secretaries Toucey and Holt to the com- 
manders of the Macedonian and Brooklyn^ and " other naval 
officers in command," and "to Lieutenant A. J. Slemmer, 1st 
artillery, commanding Fort Pickens, Pensacola, Florida." The 
following is a copy : "In consequence of the assurances received 
from Mr. Mallory in a telegram of yesterday to Messrs. Slidell, 
Hunter, and Bigler, with a request it should be laid before the 
President, that Fort Pickens would not be assaulted, and an 
offer of such assurance to the same effect from Colonel Chase, 
for the purpose of avoiding a hostile collision, upon receiving 
satisfactory assurances from Mr. Mallory and Colonel Chase that 
Fort Pickens will not be attacked, you are instructed not to 
land the company on board the Brooklyn unless said fort shall 
be attacked, or preparations shall be made for its attack. The 
provisions necessary for the supply of the fort you will land. 
The Brooklyn and the other vessels of war on the station will 
remain, and you will exercise the utmost vigilance and be pre- 
pared at a moment's warning to land the company at Fort Pick- 
ens, and you and they will instantly repel any attack on the 
fort. The President yesterday sent a special message to Con- 
gress communicating the Virginia resolutions of compromise. 
The commissioners of different States are to meet here on Mon- 
day, the 4th February, and it is important that during their 
session a collision of arms should be avoided, unless an attack 
should be made, or there should be preparations for such an at- 
tack. In either event the Brooklyn and the other vessels will 
act promptly. Your right, and that of the other officers in com- 
mand at Pensacola, freely to communicate by special messenger 
[with the Government], and its right in the same manner to 
communicate with yourself and them, will remain intact, as the 
basis on which the present instruction is given." 

On the arrival of this order at Pensacola the satisfactory 



assurances which it required were given by Mr. Mallory and 
Colonel Chase to our naval and military commanders, and the 
result proved most fortunate. The Brooklyn had a long pas- 
sage. Although she left Fortress Monroe on the 24th January, 
she did not arrive at Pensacola until the 6th February. In the 
mean time Fort Pickens, with Lieutenant Slemmer (whose con- 
duct deserves high commendation) and his command, were, by 
virtue of this order, supplied with provisions and placed in per- 
fect security, until an adequate force had arrived to defend it 
against any attack. The Tort has ever since been in our pos- 

General Scott, in his report to President Lincoln, speaks of 
this arrangement in the hostile spirit toward President Buchanan 
which pervades the whole document. He condemns it without 
qualification. He alleges " that the Brooklyn, with Captain 
Vogdes' company alone, left the Chesapeake for Fort Pickens 
about January the 22d, and on the 29th President Buchanan, 
having entered into a quasi armistice with certain leading se- 
ceders at Pensacola and elsewhere, caused Secretaries Holt and 
Toucey to instruct, in a joint note, the commanders of the war ves- 
sels off Pensacola, and Lieutenant Slemmer, commanding Fort 
Pickens, to commit no act of hostility, and not to land Captain 
Vogdes' company unless the fort should be attacked." He washes 
his hands of all knowledge of the transaction by declaring, " That 
joint note I never saw, but suppose the armistice was consequent 
upon the meeting of the Peace Convention at Washington, and 
was understood to terminate with it." 

Will it be believed that General Scott himself had expressly 
approved this joint order before it was issued, which he presents 
to President Lincoln in such odious colors ? President Buchanan 
had a distinct recollection that either the Secretary of War or 
of the Navy, or both, had at the time informed him of this fact. 
Still he would have hesitated to place himself before the public 
on an important question of veracity in direct opposition to a 
report to his successor by the Commanding General of the army. 
He was relieved from this embarrassment by finding among his 
papers a note from Secretary Holt to himself, dated on the 29th 
January, the day on which the joint order was issued. From 


this the following is an extract : " I have the satisfaction of say- 
ing that on submitting the paper to General Scott he expressed 
himself entirely satisfied with it, saying that there could be no 
objection to the arrangement in a military point of view or 
otherwise." How does General Scott, in November, 1862, at- 
tempt to escape from this dilemma? Whilst acknowledging 
that few persons are as little liable as Mr. Holt to make a mis- 
statement, either by accident or design, he yet states that he has 
not the slightest recollection of any interview with him on the 
subject.* He proceeds to say that he does indeed remember 
that Mr. Holt, about this time, approached his bedside when he 
was suffering from an access of pain ; leaving it to be inferred, 
though he does not directly say so, that this might account for 
his want of attention ; and then he slides off, as is his wont, to 
another subject. But his subterfuge will not avail him. The 
testimony of Mr. Holt is conclusive that he not only expressed 
his satisfaction with the order, but expressly declared that 
there could be no objection to it in a military or any other point 
of view. It is impossible that Mr. Holt, on the very day of the 
interview, and without any conceivable motive, should have 
made a false report to the President of what had just occurred 
between himself and the General. Strange forgetfulness ! 

General Scott, also, in his report to President Lincoln, com- 
ments severely on the delay of the order for reinforcements to 
Fort Taylor, Key West, and Fort Jefferson, Tortugas Island, 
notwithstanding this had been issued so early as the 4th Jan- 
uary, and though these reinforcements had arrived in sufficient 
time to render both forts perfectly secure. This the General 
admits ; and there the matter ought to have ended. But not 
so. It was necessary to elicit from this simple transaction 
reasons for magnifying his own services and censuring President 
Buchanan. According to the report, he had experienced great 
difficulty in obtaining permission from the President to send 
these reinforcements ; " and this," says he, " was only effected 
by the aid of Secretary Holt, a strong and loyal man." He 
then launches forth into the fearful consequences which might 

* General Scott's rejoinder to ex-President Buchanan, "National Intelligencer,' 
Nov. 12, 1862. 



have followed but for his own vigilance and foresight. He even 
goes so far as to say that with the possession of these forts, " the 
rebels might have purchased an early recognition." 

In opposition to these fanciful speculations, what is the sim- 
ple statement of the fact ? The administration were well aware 
of the importance of these forts to the commerce of the Gulf 
of Mexico. General Scott asked the attention of Secretary 
Floyd, then about to leave office, to the reenforcement of them 
by a note of the 28th December. Not receiving any response, 
he addressed a note on the 30th to the President on the same 
subject. The rupture with the first South Carolina commission- 
ers occurred on the 2d January, and the time had then arrived 
when the President, acting on his established policy, deemed it 
necessary to send reinforcements not only to Fort Sumter, but 
also to Forts Taylor and Jefferson, and these were accordingly 
despatched to the two latter on the 4th January. The same 
course precisely would have been pursued had General Scott 
remained at his headquarters in New York. 

But the most remarkable instance of General Scott's want 
of memory remains to be exposed. This is not contained in 
his report to President Lincoln, but is to be found in his let- 
ter of the 8th November, 1862, to the " National Intelligen- 
cer," in reply to that of ex-President Buchanan. Unable to 
controvert any of the material facts stated in this letter, the 
General deemed it wise to escape from his awkward position 
by repeating and indorsing the accusation against Secretary 
Floyd, in regard to what has been called " the stolen arms," 
although this had been condemned as unfounded more than 
eighteen months before, by the report of the Committee on 
Military Affairs of the House of Representatives. This was that 
the Secretary, in order to furnish aid to the approaching re- 
bellion, had fraudulently sent public arms to the South for the 
use of the insurgents. This charge chimed in admirably with 
public prejudice at the moment. Although the committee, after 
full investigation, had so long before as January, 1861, proved 
it to be unfounded, yet it has continued, notwithstanding, to be 
repeated and extensively credited up till the present moment. 
Numerous respectable citizens still believe that the Confederate 

220 mr. Buchanan's administration 

States have been righting us with cannon, rifles, and muskets 
thus treacherously placed in their possession. This delusion 
presents a striking illustration of the extent to which public 
prejudice may credit a falsehood not only without foundation, 
but against the clearest official evidence. Although the late 
President has not been implicated as an accessory to the alleged 
fraud, yet he has been charged with a want of vigilance in not 
detecting and defeating it. 

The pretext on which General Scott seized to introduce this 
new subject of controversy at so late a period, is far-fetched and 
awkward. Mr. Buchanan, whilst repelling the charge in the 
General's report to President Lincoln, that he had acted under 
the influence of Secretary Floyd in refusing to garrison the 
Southern fortifications, declares that "all -my Cabinet must 
bear me witness that I was the President myself, responsible for 
all the acts of the administration ; and certain it is that during 
the last six months previous to the 29th December, 1860, the 
day on which he resigned his office, after my request, he exer- 
cised less influence in the administration than any other mem- 
ber of the Cabinet." * Whereupon the General, in order to 
weaken the force and impair the credibility of this declaration, 
makes the following insidious and sarcastic remarks: "Now, 
notwithstanding this broad assumption of responsibility, I should 
be sorry to believe that Mr. Buchanan specially consented to 
the removal, by Secretary Floyd, of 115,000 extra muskets and 
rifles, with all their implements and ammunition, from North- 
ern repositories to Southern arsenals, so that on the breaking 
out of the maturing rebellion, they might be found without cost, 
except to the United States, in the most convenient positions 
for distribution among the insurgents. So, too, of the one hun- 
dred and twenty or one hundred and forty pieces of heavy 
artillery, which the same Secretary ordered from Pittsburg to 
Ship Island, in Lake Borgne, and Galveston, Texas, for forts 
not yet erected. Accidentally learning, early in March, that 
under this posthumous order the shipment of these guns had 
commenced, I communicated the fact to Secretary Holt (acting 
for Secretary Cameron) just in time to defeat the robbery." 

* Letter to "National Intelligencer," 28th Oct., 1862. 


Whilst writing this paragraph it would seem impossible that 
the General had ever read the report of the Committee on 
Military Affairs, and equally impossible that he, as Command- 
ing General of the army, should have been ignorant of this 
important document, so essentially connected with his official 

But to proceed to the report of the committee, which effect- 
ually disproves the General's assertions. At the commence- 
ment of the session of 1860-'61, public rumor gave birth to this 
charge. It very justly and properly attracted the attention of 
the House of Representatives, and from its nature demanded a 
rigorous investigation. Accordingly, on the motion of Mr. 
Stanton, of Ohio, the chairman of the Committee on Military 
Affairs, the House adopted a resolution instructing the commit- 
tee " to inquire and report to the House to whom and at what 
price the public arms, distributed since the 1st January, 1 860, 
had been disposed of," etc., etc. The investigation was deemed 
Df such paramount importance that the House authorized the 
committee not only to send for persons and papers, but also to 
report at any time in preference to all other business. From 
the nature of the charge it could not be difficult for the commit- 
tee to establish either its truth or its falsehood. Arms could 
not be removed from one armory or arsenal to another by Sec- 
retary Floyd, without the knowledge and active participation 
of the officers and attaches of the Ordnance Bureau. At its 
head was Colonel Craig, an officer as loyal and faithful as any 
who belonged to the army. It was through his agency alone 
that the arms could have been removed, and it is certain that 
had he known or suspected treachery on the part of the Secre- 
tary, he would instantly have communicated this to the Presi- 
dent, in order that it might be defeated. 

The committee made their first report to the House on the 
9th January, 1861.* With this they presented two tables (Nos. 
2 and 3), communicated to them by Mr. Holt, then the Secre- 
tary of War, from the Ordnance Bureau, exhibiting " the num- 
ber and description of arms distributed since 1st January, 1860, 
to the States and Territories, and at what price." Whoever 

* "Congressional Globe," p. 294. House Journal, p. 156. 

222 mr. Buchanan's administration 

shall examine table No. 2 will discover that the Southern and 
Southwestern States received much less in the aggregate instead 
of more than the quota of arms to which they were justly enti- 
tled under the law for arming the militia. Indeed, it is a re- 
markable fact that neither Arkansas, Delaware, Kentucky, Loui- 
siana, North Carolina, nor Texas received any portion of these 
arms, though they were army muskets of the very best quality. 
This arose simply from their own neglect, because the quota to 
which they were entitled would have been delivered to each of 
them on a simple application to the Ordnance Bureau. The 
whole number of muskets distributed among all the States, North 
and South, was just 8,423. Of these the Southern and South- 
western States received only 2,091, or less than one-fourth. 
Again, the whole number of long range rifles of the army calibre 
distributed among all the States in the year 1860, was 1,728. Of 
these, six of the Southern and Southwestern States, Kentucky, 
Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Yirginia 
received in the aggregate 758, and the remainder of these States 
did not receive any. 

Thus it appears that the aggregate of rifles and muskets 
distributed in 1860 was 10,151, of which the Southern and 
Southwestern States received 2,849, or between one-third and 
one-fourth of the whole number. Such being the state of the 
facts, well might Mr. Stanton have observed in making this 
report, much to his credit for candor and fairness, that " there 
are a good deal of rumors, and speculations, and misappre- 
hension as to the true state of facts in regard to this mat- 
ter." * The report of the committee and the opinion expressed 
by its chairman before the House, it might have been sup- 
posed, would satisfy General Scott that none of these muskets 
or rifles had been purloined by Secretary Floyd. But not so. 
The ex-President had stated in his letter to the " National In- 
telligencer," of November 7th, 1862, that " the Southern States 
received in 1860 less instead of more than the quota of arms to 
which they were entitled by law." This statement was founded 
on the report of the committee, which had now been brought 
fully to his notice. He, notwithstanding, still persisted in his 

* "Congressional Globe," I860-' 61, p. 294. 


error, and in his letter to the " National Intelligencer " of the 
2d December, 1862, he says : " This is most strange contrasted 
with information given to me last year, and a telegram just re- 
ceived from Washington and a high officer, not of the Ordnance 
Department, in these words and figures : ' Ehode Island, Dela- 
ware, and Texas had not drawn at the end of eighteen sixty 
(1860) their annual quotas of arms for that year, and Massachu- 
setts, Tennessee, and Kentucky only in part. Yirginia, South 
Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and 
Kansas were by the order of the Secretary of War supplied 
with their quotas for eighteen sixty-one (1861) in advance, and 
Pennsylvania and Maryland in part.' " It is in vain that the 
General attempts to set up an anonymous telegram against the 
report of the committee. From what source did he derive the 
information given to him, last year ? And who was the author 
of the telegram % He does not say in either case. Surely be- 
fore he gave this telegram to the world, under the sanction of 
his own name, he ought to have ascertained from the Ordnance 
Bureau whether it was true or false. This he might easily and 
speedily have done, had he been careful to present an authentic 
statement. There is a mysterious vagueness about this telegram, 
calculated if not intended to deceive the casual reader into the 
belief that a great number of these arms had been distributed 
among the enumerated States, embracing their quotas not only 
for 1860 but for 1861. From it no person could imagine that 
these eight States in the aggregate had received fewer muskets 
and rifles than would be required to arm two full regiments. 

The next subject investigated by the committee was, had 
Secretary Floyd sent any cannon to the Southern States ? This 
was a most important inquiry. Our columbiads and 32-pound- 
ers were at the time considered equal, if not superior, to any 
cannon in the world. It was easy to ascertain whether he had 
treacherously, or otherwise, sent any of these formidable weap- 
ons to the South. Had he done this, it would have been impos- 
sible to conceal the fact and escape detection. The size and 
ponderous weight of these cannon rendered it impracticable to 
remove them from the North to the South without the knowl- 
edge of many outside persons, in addition to those connected 

224 me. Buchanan's administration 

with the Ordnance Bureau. The committee reported on this 
subject on the 18th February, 1861. There was no evidence 
before them that any of these cannon had actually been trans- 
mitted to the South. Indeed, this was not even pretended. 
From their report, however, it does appear that Secretary Floyd 
had attempted to do this on one occasion a very short time be- 
fore he left the department, but that he had failed in this at- 
tempt in consequence of a countermand of his order issued by 
Mr. Holt, his successor in the "War Department. 

It requires but a few words to explain the whole transaction. 
Secretary Floyd, on the 20th December, 1860, without the knowl- 
edge of the President, ordered Captain (now Colonel) Maynadier, 
of the Ordnance Bureau, to cause the guns necessary for the 
armament of the forts on Ship Island and at Galveston to be 
sent to those places. This order was given verbally and not in 
the usual form. It was not recorded, and the forts were far 
from being prepared to receive their armaments. The whole 
number of guns required for both forts, according to the state- 
ment of the Engineer Department to Captain Maynadier, was 
one hundred and thirteen columbiads and eleven 32-pounders. 
When, late in December, 1860, these were about to be shipped 
at Pittsburg for their destination on the steamer /Silver Wave, 
a committee of gentlemen from that city first brought the facts 
to the notice of President Buchanan. The consequence was, 
that, in the language of the report of the committee : " Before 
the order of the late Secretary of War [Floyd] had been fully 
executed by the actual shipment of said guns from Pittsburg, it 
was countermanded by the present Secretary." This prompt 
proceeding elicited a vote of thanks, on the 4th January, 1861, 
from the Select and Common Councils of that city, " to the 
President, the Attorney-G-eneral [Black], and the acting Secre- 
tary of War [Holt]." ' 

It is of this transaction, so clearly explained by the commit- 
tee in February, 1861, that General Scott, so long after as the 
8th November, 1862, speaks in the language which we again 
quote : " Accidentally learning, early in March, that under this 
posthumous order [of Secretary Floyd] the shipment of these 
guns had commenced, I communicated the fact to Secretary 


Holt (acting for Secretary Cameron) just in time to defeat the 
robbery." This statement is plain and explicit. The period 
of the General's alleged communication to Secretary Holt is 
precisely fixed. It was in March, after the close of Mr. Bu- 
chanan's administration, and whilst Mr. Holt was acting for 
Secretary Cameron, who had not yet taken possession of the 
department. This was just in time to prevent the "posthu- 
mous " order of Secretary Floyd from being carried into execu- 
tion. Why does the General italicize the word "posthumous" % 
Perhaps he did not understand its signification. If this word 
has any meaning as applicable to the subject, it is that Mr. Floyd 
had issued the order to Captain Maynadier after his office had 
expired. Be this as it may, the object is palpable. It was to 
show that Mr. Buchanan had suffered his administration to ter- 
minate leaving the " posthumous " order of Governor Floyd in 
full force until after Mr. Lincoln's accession, and that it would 
even then have been carried into execution but for the General's 
lucky interposition. 

The General, in his letter to the " National Intelligencer " 
of 2d December, 1862, attempts to excuse this deplorable want 
of memory to the prejudice of Mr. Buchanan. Whilst acknowl- 
edging his error in having said that the countermand of Mr. 
Floyd's order was in March, instead of early in the previous 
January, he insists that this was an immaterial mistake, and 
still actually claims the credit of having prevented the shipment 
of the cannon. " An immaterial mistake ! " Why, time was 
of the very essence of the charge against Mr. Buchanan. It 
was the alleged delay from January till March in countermand- 
ing the order, which afforded any pretext for an assault on his 
administration. After his glaring mistake had been exposed, 
simple justice, not to speak of magnanimity, would have re- 
quired that he should retract his error in a very different spirit 
and manner from that which he has employed. 

It is due to Colonel Maynadier to give his own explanation 
for having obeyed the order of Secretary Floyd. In his letter 
to the Potter Committee of the House of Representatives, dated 
3d February, 186%, he says : " In truth it never entered my 
mind at this time (20th December, 1860), that there could be 

226 me. Buchanan's administration 

any improper motive or object in the order, for on the question 
of union and secession Mr. Floyd was then regarded through- 
out the country as a strong advocate of the Union and opponent 
of secession. He had recently published, over his own signa- 
ture, in a Richmond paper, a letter on this subject, which gained 
him high credit at the North for his boldness in rebuking the 
pernicious views of many in his own State." 

The committee, then, in the third place, extended back their 
inquiry into the circumstances under which Secretary Floyd 
had a year before, in December, 1859, ordered the removal of 
one-fifth of the old percussion and flint-lock muskets from the 
Springfield armory, where they had accumulated in inconven- 
ient numbers, to five Southern arsenals. The committee, after 
examining Colonel Craig, Captain Maynadier, and other wit- 
nesses, merely reported to the House the testimony they had 
taken, without in the slightest degree implicating the conduct 
of Secretary Floyd. Indeed, this testimony is wholly inconsist- 
ent with the existence of any improper motive on his part. He 
issued the order to Colonel Craig (December 29th, 1859) almost 
a year before Mr. Lincoln's election, several months before his 
nomination at Chicago, and before the Democratic party had 
destroyed its prospects of success by breaking up the Charleston 
Convention. Besides, Secretary Floyd was at the time, as he 
had always been, an open and avowed opponent of secession. 
Indeed, long afterwards, when the question had assumed a more 
serious aspect, we are informed, as already stated by Captain 
Maynadier, that he had in a Kichmond paper boldly rebuked 
the advocates of this pernicious doctrine. The order and all the 
proceedings under it were duly recorded. The arms were not 
to be removed in haste, but " from time to time as may be most 
suitable for economy and transportation," and they were to be 
distributed among the arsenals, " in proportion to their respec- 
tive means of proper storage." All was openly transacted, and 
the order was carried into execution by the Ordnance Bureau 
according to the usual course of administration, without any 
reference to the President. 

The United States had on hand 499,554, say 500,000 of these 
muskets. They were in every respect inferior to the new rifle 


muskets, with which the army had for some years been sup- 
plied. They were of the old calibre of T Vo °f an inch, which 
had been changed in 1855 to that of -££$ in the new rifled mus- 
kets. It was 105,000 of these arms that Secretary Floyd or- 
dered to be sent to the five Southern arsenals ; " 65,000 of them 
were percussion muskets of the calibre of -^-j and 40,000 of this 
calibre altered to percussion." By the same order 10,000 of the 
old percussion rifles of the calibre of T 5 ^~ were removed to these 
arsenals. These constitute the 115,000 extra muskets and rifles, 
with all their implements and ammunition, which, according to 
General Scott's allegation nearly Ihree years thereafter, had 
been sent to the South to furnish arms to the future insurgents. 
We might suppose from this description, embracing " ammuni- 
tion," powder and ball, though nowhere to be found except in 
his own imagination, that the secessionists were just ready to 
commence the civil war. His sagacity, long after the fact, puts 
to shame the dulness of the Military Committee. Whilst obliged 
to admit that the whole proceeding was officially recorded, he 
covers it with an air of suspicion by asserting that the transac- 
tion was " very quietly conducted." And yet it was openly 
conducted according to the prescribed forms, and must have 
been known at the time to a large number of persons, including 
the General himself, outside either of the War Department, the 
Springfield armory, or the Southern arsenals. In truth, there 
was not then the least motive for concealment, even had this 
been possible. 

The General pronounces these muskets and rifles to have 
been of an " extra " quality. It may, therefore, be proper to 
state from the testimony what was their true character. 

In 1857 proceedings had been instituted by the War Depart- 
ment, under the act of 3d March, 1825, " to authorize the sale 
of unserviceable ordnance, arms, and military stores." * The 
inspecting officers under the act condemned 190,000 of the old 
muskets, " as unsuitable for the public service," and recom- 
mended that they be sold. In the spring of 1859, 50,000 of 
them were offered at public sale. " The bids received," says 
Colonel Craig, "were very unsatisfactory, ranging from 10^ 

* 4 Stat, at Large, 127. 

228 me. Buchanan's administration: 

cents to $2.00, except one bid for a small lot for $3.50. In sub- 
mitting them to the Secretary L recommended that none of them 
be accepted at less than $2.00." An effort was then made to 
dispose of them at private sale for the fixed price of $2.50. So 
low was the estimate in which they were held, that this price 
could not be obtained, except for 31,610 of them in parcels. It 
is a curious fact, that although the State of Louisiana had pur- 
chased 5,000 of them at $2.50, she refused to take more than 
2,500. On the 5th July, 1859, Mr. H. G. Fant purchased a 
large lot of them at $2.50 each, payable in ninety days; but in 
the mean time he thought better of it, and like the State of Lou- 
isiana failed to comply with his contract. And Mr. Belnap, 
whose bid at $2.15 for 100,000 of them intended for the Sar- 
dinian Government had been accepted by the Secretary, under 
the impression it was $2.50, refused to take them at this price 
after the mistake had been corrected. Colonel Craig, in speak- 
ing of these muskets generally, both those which had and had 
not been condemned, testified that " It is certainly advisable to 
get rid of that kind of arms whenever we have a sufficient num- 
ber of others to supply their places, and to have all our small 
arms of one calibre. The new gun is rifled. A great many of 
those guns [flint-locks], altered to percussion, are not strong 
enough to rifle, and therefore they are an inferior gun. They 
are of a different calibre from those now manufactured by the 

Had the cotton States at the time determined upon rebellion, 
what an opportunity they lost of supplying themselves with 
these condemned " extra muskets and rifles " of General Scott ! 

In opposition to the strictures of General Scott upon Mr. 
Buchanan's administration, it may be pardonable to state the 
estimate in which it was held by Mr. Holt, the Secretary of 
"War. No man living had better opportunities than himself of 
forming a just judgment of its conduct, especially in regard to 
military matters. Besides, in respect to these, he had been in 
constant official communication with General Scott from the 
first of January, 1861, until the inauguration of President Lin- 
coln. He had previously been Postmaster-General from the 
decease of his predecessor, Governor Brown, in March, 1859, 


until the last day of December, 1860, when he was appointed 
Secretary of War, at this period the most important and respon- 
sible position in the Cabinet. In this he continued nntil the 
end of the administration. In his customary letter of resigna- 
tion addressed to Mr. Buchanan, immediately before the advent 
of the new administration, and now on file in the State Depart- 
ment, he did not confine himself to the usual routine in such 
cases, but has voluntarily added an expression of his opinion of 
the administration of which he had been bo long a member. 
He says that — 

u In thus terminating our official relations, I avail myself of 
the occasion to express to you my heartfelt gratitude for the 
confidence with which, in this and other high positions, you 
have honored me, and for the firm and generous support which 
you have constantly extended to me, amid the arduous and per- 
plexing duties which I have been called to perform. In the full 
conviction that your labors will yet be crowned by the glory 
that belongs to an enlightened statesmanship and to an unsul- 
lied patriotism, and with sincerest wishes for your personal hap- 
piness, I remain most truly 

"Your friend, "J. Holt." 

It is fair to observe that the policy of President Lincoln 
toward the seven cotton States which had seceded before his in- 
auguration, was, in the main, as conservative and forbearing as 
that of Mr. Buchanan. No fault can be justly found with his 
inaugural address, except that portion of it derogating from 
the authority of decisions of the Supreme Court. This was 
doubtless intended to shield the resolution of the Chicago plat- 
form, prohibiting slavery in Territories, from the Dred Scott 
decision. It cannot be denied that this had at the time an un- 
happy influence upon the border States, because it impaired the 
hope of any future compromise of this vital question. •* 

President Lincoln specifies and illustrates the character of 
his inaugural in his subsequent message to Congress of the 4th 
July, 1861. He says : " The policy chosen looked to the exhaus- 
tion of all peaceable measures, before a resort to any stronger 

230 me. Buchanan's administration 

ones. It sought to hold the public places and property, not 
already wrested from the Government, and to collect the reve- 
nue, relying for' the rest oh time, discussion, and the ballot-box. 
It promised a continuance of the mails at Government expense 
to the very people who were resisting the Government, and it 
gave repeated pledges against any disturbance to any of the 
people or any of their rights. Of all that a President might 
constitutionally and justifiably do in such a case, every thing 
was forborne without which it was possible to keep the Govern- 
ment on foot." 

The policy thus announced, whilst like that of Mr. Buchanan, 
was of a still more forbearing character. Nay, more ; the ad- 
ministration of Mr. Lincoln deliberated, and at one time, it is 
believed, had resolved, on the advice of General Scott, to with- 
draw the troops under Major Anderson from the harbor of 
Charleston, although this had been repeatedly and peremptorily 
refused by the preceding administration. If sound policy had 
not enjoined this forbearing course, it would have been dictated 
by necessity, because Congress had adjourned after having de- 
liberately refused to provide either men or means for a defensive, 
much less an aggressive movement. 

The policy thus announced by Mr. Lincoln, under the cir- 
cumstances, was the true policy. It was the only policy which 
could present a reasonable hope of preserving and confirming 
the border States in their allegiance to the Government. It 
was the only policy which could by possibility enable these 
States to bring back the seceded cotton States into the Union. 
It was the only policy which could cordially unite the Northern 
people in the suppression of rebellion, should they be compelled 
to resist force by force for the preservation of the Constitution 
and the Union. It was, however, rendered impossible to pursue 
this conservative policy any longer after the Government of the 
Confederate cotton States, on the 13th April, 1861, had com- 
menced the civil war by the bombardment and capture of Fort 
Sumter. Its wisdom has been vindicated by the unanimous and 
enthusiastic uprising of the Northern people, without distinc- 
tion of party, to suppress the rebellion which had thus been 



The reduction of the expenses of the Government under Mr. Buchanan's administra- 
tion — The expedition to Utah — The Covode Committee. 

The rancorous and persistent opposition, to Mr. Buchanan's 
administration throughout its whole term, did not divert it from 
devoting its efforts to promote the various and important inter- 
ests intrusted to its charge. Both its domestic and foreign pol- 
icy proved eminently successful. This appears from the records 
of the country. We deem it necessary to refer only to a few of 
the most important particulars. 

The administration succeeded by rigid economy in greatly 
reducing the expenditures of the Government. To this task 
Mr. Buchanan had pledged himself in his inaugural. It was 
no easy work. An overflowing treasury had produced habits 
of prodigality which it was difficult to correct. Over the con- 
tingent expenses of Congress, which had become far more ex- 
travagant than those of any other branch of the Government, 
the President could exercise no control. For these the two 
Houses were exclusively responsible, and they had so far tran- 
scended all reasonable limits, that their expenses, though in their 
nature they ought to have been purely incidental, had far ex- 
ceeded the whole of the regular appropriation for their pay and 
mileage. Such was the extent of the abuse, that in the two 
fiscal years ending respectively on the 30th June, 1858 and 
1859, whilst the regular pay and mileage of the members were 
less than $2,350,000, these contingencies amounted to more 
than three millions and a half. In the fiscal year ending on the 
30th June, 1860, they were somewhat reduced, but still ex- 
ceeded $1,000,000. 

232 me. Buchanan's administration 

Notwithstanding this extravagance and the large outlay un- 
avoidably incurred for the expedition to Utah, the President 
succeeded in gradually diminishing the annual expenditures 
until they were reduced to the sum of $55,402,465.46. We do 
not mention the cost of the expedition to Paraguay, because, 
through the careful management of the Secretary of the Navy, 
this amounted to very little more than the ordinary appropria- 
tion for the naval service. This aggregate embraces all the ex- 
penses of the Government, legislative, executive, and judicial, 
for the year ending 30th June, 1860, but not the interest on the 
public debt. If this, which was $3,177,314, be added, the whole 
would amount to $58,579,779.46. If to this we should make a 
liberal addition for appropriations recommended by the "War 
and Navy Departments, as necessary for the defence of the 
country, but which were rejected by Congress, we shall be able 
to appreciate justly the correctness of the President's declara- 
tion in his annual message of December, 1860, " that the sum 
of $61,000,000, or, at the most, $62,000,000, is amply sufficient 
to administer the Government and to pay the interest on the 
public debt, unless contingent events should hereafter ren- 
der extraordinary expenditures necessary." These statements, 
though made in the message, were never controverted by any 
member of either House in this hostile Congress. The expen- 
diture was reduced to a much lower figure than the friends of 
the administration deemed possible. The result was the fruit 
of rigid economy and strict accountability. All public con- 
tracts, except in a very few cases where this was impracticable, 
were awarded, after advertisement, to the lowest bidder. And 
yet, in the face of all these facts, the administration of Mr. Bu- 
chanan has been charged with extravagance. 


In addition to the troubles in Kansas, President Buchanan, 
at an early period of his administration, was confronted by an 
open resistance to the execution of the laws in the Territory of 
Utah. All the officers of the United States, judicial and exec- 
utive, except two Indian agents, had found it necessary for their 


personal safety to escape from the Territory. There no longer 
remained in it any Government, except the Mormon despotism 
of Brigham Young. This being the condition of affairs, the 
President had no alternative but to adopt vigorous measures for 
restoring the supremacy of the Constitution and the laws. For 
this purpose he appointed a new Governor (Cumming) and 
other Federal officers, to take the place of Governor* Young and 
of those who had been compelled to leave the Territory. To 
have sent these officers to Utah without a military force to pro- 
tect them whilst performing their duties, would have only in- 
vited farther aggression. He therefore ordered that a detach- 
ment of the army should accompany them to act as a, posse com. 
itatus, when required by the civil authority for the execution 
of the laws. 

There was much reason to believe that Governor Young had 
long desired and intended to render himself independent. " He 
knows [says the President, in his annual message of December, 
1857] that the continuance of his despotic power depends upon 
the exclusion of all settlers from the Territory, except those who 
will acknowledge his divine mission and implicitly obey his 
will ; and that an enlightened public opinion would soon pros- 
trate institutions at war with the laws both of God and man. 
He has, therefore, for several years, in order to maintain his 
independence, been industriously employed in collecting and 
fabricating arms and munitions of war, and in disciplining the 
Mormons for military service. As Superintendent of Indian 
Affairs, he has had an opportunity of tampering with the Indian 
tribes, and exciting their hostile feelings against the United 
States. This, according to our information, he has accomplished 
in regard to some of these tribes, while others have remained 
true to their allegiance, and have communicated his intrigues to 
our Indian agents." 

" At the date of the President's instructions to Govenor Cum- 
ming, a hope was indulged that no necessity might exist for em- 
ploying the military in restoring and maintaining the authority 
of the law, but this hope has now vanished. Governor Young 
has, by proclamation, declared his determination to maintain 
his power by force, and has already committed acts of hostility 

234 me. Buchanan's administration 

against the United States. Unless he should retrace his steps, 
the Territory of Utah will be in a state of open rebellion. He 
has committed these acts of hostility, notwithstanding Major 
Yan Vliet, an officer of the army, 'sent to Utah by the Com- 
manding General to purchase provisions for the troops, had 
given him the strongest assurances of the peaceful intentions 
of the Government, and that the troops would only be employed 
as SLjposse comitates when called on by the civil authority to aid 
in the execution of the laws." 

He not only refused to sell, or permit the Mormons to sell, 
any provisions for the subsistence of the troops, but he informed 
Major Yan Yliet that he had laid in a store of provisions for 
three years, which in case of necessity he would conceal " and 
then take to the mountains, and bid defiance to all the powers 
of the Government." 

The message proceeds to state that " a great part of all this 
may be idle boasting ; but yet no wise government will lightly 
estimate the efforts which may be inspired by such frenzied 
fanaticism as exists among the Mormons in Utah. This is the 
first rebellion which has existed in our Territories ; and human- 
ity itself requires that we should put it down in such a manner 
that it shall be the last. To trifle with it would be to encourage 
it and to render it formidable." 

It was not until the 29th of June, 1857, that the General in 
Chief (Scott) was enabled to issue orders, from his headquar- 
ters at ]STew York, to Brigadier General Harney, for the conduct 
of the expedition.* (And here it may be proper to observe that 
Col. A. S. Johnston, of the 2d United States cavalry, was soon 
after substituted in the command for General Harney. This 
was done on the earnest request of Governor Walker, who 
believed that Harney's services in Kansas were indispensable.) 

The season was now so far advanced, and Utah was so dis- 
tant, that doubts were entertained whether the expedition ought 
not to be delayed until the next spring. But the necessity for 
a prompt movement to put down the resistance of Brigham 
Young to the execution of the laws, and to prevent the conse- 
quences of leaving him in undisturbed possession of supreme 

* Senate Documents, 1857-58, vol. iii., p. 21. 


power for another year, were most fortunately sufficient to 
overcome these doubts. General Scott in his orders refers 
to these difficulties, and makes them the occasion of prescrib- 
ing to the commander the great care and diligence he 
ought to employ. He says : " The lateness of the season, the 
dispersed condition of the troops, and the smallness of the num- 
bers available, have seemed to present elements of difficulty, if 
not hazard, in this expedition. But it is believed that these 
may be compensated by unusual care in its outfit and great pru- 
dence in its conduct. All disposable recruits have been 
reserved for it. So well is the nature of this service appreci- 
ated, and so deeply are the honor and interests of the United 
States involved in its success, that I am authorized to say the 
Government will hesitate at no expense requisite to complete 
the efficiency of your little army, and to insure health and com- 
fort to it, as far as attainable." 

The happy result of this expedition we shall present in the 
language of the annual message of the 6th of December, 1858, as 
follows : •" The present condition of the Territory of Utah, 
when contrasted with what it was one year ago, is a subject for t 
congratulation. It was then in a state of open rebellion, and 
cost what it might, the character of the Government required 
that this rebellion should be suppressed, and the Mormons com- 
pelled to yield obedience to the Constitution and the laws. 
In order to accomplish this object, as I informed you in my last 
annual message, I appointed a new Governor instead of Brig- 
ham Young, and other Federal officers to take the place of 
those who, consulting their personal safety, had found it neces- 
sary to withdraw from the Territory. To protect these civil 
officers, and to aid them as a posse comitatus in the execution 
of the laws in case of need, I ordered a detachment of the army 
to accompany them to Utah. The necessity for adopting these 
measures is now demonstrated. 

" On the 15th of September, 1857, Governor Young issued his 
proclamation, in the style of an independent sovereign, announc- 
ing his purpose to resist by force of arms the entry of the United 
States troops into our own Territory of Utah. By this he re- 
quired all the forces in the Territory ( to hold themselves in 


236 me. Buchanan's administration 

readiness to march at a moment's notice to repel any and all 
such invasion,' and established martial law from its date through- 
out the Territory. These proved to be no idle threats. Forts 
Bridger and Supply were vacated and burnt down by the Mor- 
mons, to deprive our troops of a shelter after their long and 
fatiguing march. Orders were issued by Daniel H. Wells, 
styling himself ■ Lieutenant-General, ISTauvoo Legion,' to stam- 
pede the animals of the United States troops on their march, to 
set fire to their trains, to burn the grass and the whole country 
before them and on their flanks, to keep them from sleeping by 
night surprises, and to blockade the road by felling trees and 
destroying the fords of rivers, etc., etc., etc. 

" These orders were promptly and effectually obeyed. On 
the 4th of October, 1857, the Mormons captured and burned, 
on Green River, three of our supply trains, consisting of seventy- 
five wagons loaded with provisions and tents for the army, and 
carried away several hundred animals. This diminished the 
supply of provisions so materially that General Johnston was 
obliged to reduce the ration, and even with this precaution 
there was only sufficient left to subsist the troops until the first 
of June. 

" Our little army behaved admirably in their encampment at 
Fort Bridger under these* trying privations. In the midst of the 
mountains, in a dreary, unsettled, and inhospitable region, more 
than a thousand miles from home, they passed the severe and 
inclement winter without a murmur. They looked forward 
with confidence for relief from their country in due season, and 
in this they were not disappointed. 

" The Secretary of War employed all his energies to forward 
them the necessary supplies, and to muster and send such a 
military force to Utah as would render resistance on the part 
of the Mormons hopeless, and thus terminate the war without 
the effusion of blood. In his efforts he was efficiently sustained 
by Congress. They granted appropriations sufficient to cover 
the deficiency thus necessarily created, and also provided for 
raising two regiments of volunteers ' for the purpose of quelling 
disturbances in the Territory of Utah, for the protection of sup- 
ply and emigrant trains, and the suppression of Indian hostili- 


ties on the frontiers.' * Happily, there was no occasion to call 
these regiments into service. If there had been, I should have 
felt serious embarrassment in selecting them, so great was the 
number of our brave and patriotic citizens anxious to serve 
their country in this distant and apparently dangerous expedi- 
tion. Thus it has ever been, and thus may it ever be ! 

" The wisdom and economy of sending sufficient reinforce- 
ments to Utah are established not only by the event, but in the 
opinion of those who, from their position and opportunities, are 
the most capable of forming a correct judgment. General John- 
ston, the commander of the forces, in addressing the Secretary 
of War from Fort Bridger, under date of October 18th, 1857, 
expresses the opinion that ' unless a large force is sent here, 
from the nature of the country, a protracted war on their [the 
Mormons'] part is inevitable.' This he considered necessary, to 
terminate the war ' speedily and more economically than if 
attempted by insufficient means.' 

" In the mean time it was my anxious desire that the Mor- 
mons should yield obedience to the Constitution and the laws, 
without rendering it necessary to resort to military force. To 
aid in accomplishing this object, I deemed it advisable, in April 
last, to despatch two distinguished citizens of the United States, 
Messrs. Powell and McCulloch, to Utah. They bore with them 
a proclamation addressed by myself to the inhabitants of Utah, 
dated on the 6th day of that month, warning them of their true 
condition, and how hopeless it was on their part to persist in 
rebellion against the United States, and offering all those who 
should submit to the laws a full pardon for their past seditions 
and treasons. At the same time I assured those who should 
persist in rebellion against the United States that they must ex- 
pect no further lenity, but look to be rigorously dealt with, 
according to their deserts. The instructions to these agents, as 
well as a copy of the proclamation and their reports, are here- 
with submitted. It will be seen by their report of the 3d of 
July last, that they have fully confirmed the opinion expressed 
by General Johnston in the previous October as to the necessity 
of sending reenforcements to Utah. In this they state that they 

* Act of 7th April, 1858, 11 Laws, p. 262. 

238 me. Buchanan's administration 

1 are firmly impressed with the belief that the presence of the 
army here, and the large additional force that had been ordered 
to this Territory, were the chief inducements that cansed the 
Mormons to abandon the idea of resisting the authority of the 
United States. A less decisive policy would probably have 
resulted in a long, bloody, and expensive war.' These gentle- 
men conducted themselves to my entire satisfaction, and ren- 
dered useful services in executing the humane intentions of 
the Government. 

" It also affords me great satisfaction to state that Governor 
Cumming has performed his duty in an able and conciliatory 
manner, and with the happiest effect. I cannot, in this connec- 
tion, refrain from mentioning the valuable services of Colonel 
Thomas L. Kane, who, from motives of pure benevolence, and 
without any official character or pecuniary compensation, vis- 
ited Utah during the last inclement winter for the purpose of 
contributing to the pacification of the Territory. 

" I am happy to inform you that the Governor and other 
civil officers of Utah are now performing their appropriate func 
tions without resistance. The authority of the Constitution and 
the laws has been fully restored, and peace prevails throughout 
the Territory. A portion of the troops sent to Utah are now 
encamped in Cedar Valley, forty-four miles southwest of Salt 
Lake City, and the remainder have been ordered to Oregon to 
suppress Indian hostilities. 

" The march of the army to Salt Lake City, through the 
Indian Territory, has had a powerful effect in restraining the 
hostile feelings against the United States which existed among 
the Indians in that region, and in securing emigrants to the far 
west against their depredations. This will also be the means of 
establishing military posts and promoting settlements along the 

" I recommend that the benefits of our land laws and pre- 
emption system be extended to the people of Utah, by the estab- 
lishment of a land office in that Territory." 

Nearly eight years after these events had passed into history, 
Mr. Buchanan was no little surprised to discover that General 


Scott, in his autobiography, published in 1864,* asserts that he 
had protested against the Utah expedition, and that it was set 
on foot by Secretary Floyd, " to open a wide field for frauds and 
peculation." He does not even intimate that the expedition 
had been ordered by the President. The censure is cast upon 
Floyd, and upon Floyd alone. The President had, as a matter 
of course, left the military details of the movement to the Sec- 
retary of War and the Commanding General of the Army. 
From a reference to the instructions from the General to Gen- 
eral Harney, the President could not have inferred the exist- 
ence of any such protest. On the contrary, General Scott 
explicitly states the fact that they had been u prepared in con- 
cert with the War Department, and sanctioned by its au- 
thority wherever required." In these instructions General 
Scott, so far from intimating that he had protested against the 
expedition, states that " the community, and in part the civil 
Government of Utah Territory, are in a state of substantial re- 
bellion against the laws and authority of the United States. A 
new civil Governor is about to be designated, and to be charged 
with the establishment and maintenance of law and order. 
Your able and energetic aid, with that of the troops to be placed 
under your command, is relied upon to secure the success of his 
mission." And the General, as we have already seen, expresses 
the belief that the honor and interest of the United States were 
deeply involved in the result. Most certainly Mr. Buchanan, 
until he read the autobiography, never learned that General 
Scott had protested against the Utah expedition. 


We have already more than once referred to the violent and 
persistent opposition manifested in Congress to President Bu- 
chanan's administration throughout its whole term. This was 
displayed in a signal manner by the creation and proceedings of 
the notorious Covode Committee, during the session immediately 
preceding the Presidential election* It was instituted, beyond 
doubt, to render the existing Democratic administration odious 

* Vol. ii., p. 504. 


240 mr. Buchanan's administration 

in the eyes of the people, and thereby to promote the election 
of any Republican candidate who might be nominated. The 
manner in which this committee was raised, by stifling debate, 
plainly augured the character of its future action. 

On the 5th March, 1860, Mr. John Covode, a Representa- 
tive from Pennsylvania, moved to suspend the rules of the 
House so as to enable him to introduce the resolutions creating 
his committee.* The Speaker decided that this motion was 
not debatable. Several members endeavored to discuss the 
character of the resolutions, but they were soon called to order 
and silenced. Before Mr. Underwood was stopped he had got 
bo far as to say : " I rise to a point of order. It is, that it is not 
in order, in this House, for any member to propose an investi- 
gation upon vague, loose, and indefinite charges, but it is his 
duty to state the grounds distinctly upon which he predicates 
his inquiry. If the gentleman who offered these resolutions 
will state to the House, upon his responsibility as a member, 
that he knows, or has been informed and believes, that offers 
have been made to bribe, as insinuated in that resolution, no- 
body will object. But I do object to charges against any officer 
of the Government by insinuation." Mr. Covode was silent to 
this appeal, but Mr. Bingham came to his relief by objecting to 
the debate as " all out of order." 

Mr. Winslow afterwards (amidst loud and continued cries 
of "Order") said: "I feel some hesitation about my vote. 
These resolutions are very vague and indefinite, large in their 
terms, and framed like a French indictment, covering a deal of 
ground and abounding in a multitude of general charges. I 
have perfect confidence in the integrity of the President and his 
Cabinet. Let any specific charge be brought against him or 
them, and I will cheerfully yield the fullest investigation, and 
accord the promptest action. I will do nothing to hinder but 
every thing to facilitate it. I cannot, however, vote for a com- 
mittee on these sweeping charges." Mr. John Cochrane, of 
New York, had also got so far as to say : " Because no charges 
have been made on which an investigation can be founded," 
when "Mr. Grow and others called the gentleman to order." 

* House Journal, p. 450; " Congressional Globe," pp. 997, 998. 


The motion to suspend the rules was passed, and the resolu- 
tions were then before the House for consideration and discus- 
sion, when Mr. Covode instantly rose before any other member 
could obtain the floor, and called for the previous question on 
the adoption of the resolutions, which if sustained would cut 
off all amendment and debate. 

Mr. Noell. " I desire to offer an amendment, and ask that 
it may be read for information." 

Mr. Covode. " I cannot yield for that purpose." 

Mr. JNoell. " I ask to have the amendment read for infor- 

Mr. Bingham. " I object." 

" The previous question was seconded and the main question 
ordered to be put, and under the operation thereof the resolu- 
tions were adopted." 

On the 9th March, 1860, Mr. Speaker Pennington appointed 
Mr. Covode of Pennsylvania, Mr. Olin of New York, Mr. 
Winslow of North Carolina, Mr. Train of Massachusetts, and 
Mr. James C. Robinson of Illinois, members of the committee.* 
The Covode Committee was thus ushered into existence in om- 
inous silence, its authors having predetermined not to utter a 
word themselves, nor to suffer its opponents to utter a word, on 
the occasion of its birth. The President could not remain si- 
lent in the face of these high-handed and unexampled proceed- 
ings. He felt it to be his imperative duty to protest against 
them' as a dangerous invasion by the House of the rights and 
powers of the Presidential office under the Constitution of the 
United States. Accordingly he transmitted to the House, on 
the 28th March, 1860, the following message : f 

" To the House op Representatives : 

"After a delay which has afforded me ample time for reflec- 
tion, and after much and careful deliberation, I find myself con- 
strained by an imperious sense of duty, as a coordinate branch 
of the Federal Government, to protest against the first two 
clauses of the first resolution adopted by the House of Repre- 
sentatives on the 5th instant, and published in the " Congres- 

* House Journal, p. 484. t Ibid., p. 618. 

242 me. Buchanan's administration 

sional Globe " on the succeeding day. These clauses are in the 

following words : ' JResofoed, That a committee of five members 
be appointed by the Speaker, for the purpose, 1st, of investi- 
gating whether the President of the United States, or any other 
officer of the Government, has, by money, patronage, or other 
improper means, sought to influence the action of Congress, or 
any committee thereof, for or against the passage of any law 
appertaining to the rights of any State or Territory ; and 2d, 
also to inquire into and investigate whether any officer or offi- 
cers of the Government have, by combination or otherwise, pre- 
vented or defeated, or attempted to prevent or defeat, the execu- 
tion of any law or laws now upon the statute book, and whether 
the President has failed or refused to compel the execution of 
any law thereof.' 

" I confine myself exclusively to these two branches of the 
resolution, because the portions of it which follow relate to al- 
leged abuses in post-offices, navy-yards, public buildings, and 
other public works of the United States. In such cases inqui- 
ries are highly proper in themselves, and belong equally to the 
Senate and the House as incident to their legislative duties, and 
being necessary to enable them to discover and to provide the 
appropriate legislative remedies for any abuses which may be 
ascertained. Although the terms of the latter portion of the 
resolution are extremely vague and general, yet my sole purpose 
in adverting to them at present is to mark the broad line of dis 
tinction between the accusatory and the remedial clauses of this 
resolution. The House of Represent atives possess no power 
under the Constitution over the first or accusatory portion of the 
resolution, except as an impeaching body ; whilst over the last, 
in common with the Senate, their authority as a legislative body 
is fully and cheerfully admitted. 

" It is solely in reference to the first or impeaching power 
that I propose to make a few observations. Except in this sin- 
gle case, the Constitution has invested the House of Representa- 
tives with no power, no jurisdiction, no supremacy whatever 
over the President. In all other respects he is quite as inde- 
pendent of them as they are of him. As a coordinate branch 
of the Government he is their equal. Indeed, he is the only 


direct representative on earth of the people of all and each of 
the sovereign States. To them, and to them alone, is he respon- 
sible whilst acting within the sphere of his constitutional duty, 
and not in any manner to the House of Representatives. The 
people have thought proper to invest him with the most honor- 
able, responsible, and dignified office in the world, and the indi- 
vidual, however unworthy, now holding this exalted position, 
will take care, so far as in him lies, that their rights and prerog- 
atives shall never be violated in his person, but shall pass to his 
successors unimpaired by the adoption of a dangerous prece- 
dent. He will defend them to the last extremity against any 
unconstitutional attempt, come from what quarter it may, to 
abridge the constitutional rights of the Executive, and render 
him subservient to any human power except themselves. 

" The people have not confined the President to the exercise 
of executive duties. They have also conferred upon him a large 
measure of legislative discretion. ISTo bill can become a law 
without his approval, as representing the people of the United 
States, unless it shall pass after his veto by a majority of two- 
thirds of both Houses. In his legislative capacity he might, in 
common with the Senate and the House, institute an inquiry to 
ascertain any facts which ought to influence his judgment in 
approving or vetoing any bill. This participation in the per- 
formance of legislative duties between the coordinate branches 
of the Government ought to inspire the conduct of all of them, 
in their relation^ toward each other, with mutual forbearance 
and respect. At least each has a right to demand justice from 
the other. The cause of complaint is, that the constitutional 
rights and immunities of the Executive have been violated in 
the person of the President. 

" The trial of an impeachment of the President before the 
Senate on charges preferred and prosecuted against him by the 
House of Representatives, would be an imposing spectacle for 
the world. In the result, not only his removal from the Presi- 
dential office would be involved, but, what is of infinitely greater 
importance to himself, his character, both in the eyes of the 
present and of future generations, might possibly be tarnished. 
The disgrace cast upon him would in some degree be reflected 

244 me. Buchanan's administration 

upon the character of the American people who elected him. 
Hence the precautions adopted by the Constitution to secure a 
fair trial. On such a trial it declares that ' the Chief Justice 
shall preside.' This was doubtless because the framers of the 
Constitution believed it to be possible that the Yice-President 
might be biassed by the fact that * in case of the removal of the 
President from office ' i the same shall devolve on the Yice-Pres- 

" The preliminary proceedings in the House in the case of 
charges which may involve impeachment, have been well and 
wisely settled by long practice upon principles of equal justice 
both to the accused and to the people. The precedent estab- 
lished in the case of Judge Peck, of Missouri, in 1831, after a 
careful review of all former precedents, will, I venture to pre- 
dict, stand the test of time. In that case, Luke Edward Law- 
less, the accuser, presented a petition to the House, in which he 
set forth minutely and specifically his causes of complaint. He 
prayed ' that the conduct and proceedings in this behalf of said 
Judge Peck may be inquired into by your honorable body, and 
such decision made thereon as to your wisdom and justice shall 
seem proper.' This petition Was referred to the Judiciary Com- 
mittee ; such has ever been deemed the appropriate committee 
to make similar investigations. It is a standing committee, sup- 
posed to be appointed without reference to any special case, and 
at all times is presumed to be composed of the most eminent 
lawyers in the House from different portions of the Union, 
whose acquaintance with judicial proceedings, and whose habits 
of investigation, qualify them peculiarly for the task. No tri- 
bunal, from their position and character, could in the nature of 
things be more impartial. In the case of Judge Peck the wit- 
nesses were selected by the committee itself, with a view to 
ascertain the truth of the charge. They were cross-examined 
by him, and every thing was conducted in such a 'manner as to 
afford him no reasonable cause of complaint. In view of this 
precedent, and, what is of far greater importance, in view of the 
Constitution and the principles of eternal justice, in what man- 
ner has the President of the United States been treated by the 
House of Eepresentatives ? Mr. John Covode, a representative 


from Pennsylvania, is the accuser of the President. Instead of 
following the wise precedents of former times, and especially 
that in the case of Judge Peck, and referring the accusation to 
the Committee on the Judiciary, the House have made my ac- 
cuser one of my judges. 

" To make the accuser the judge is a violation of the princi- 
ples of universal justice, and is condemned by the practice of all 
civilized nations. Every freeman must revolt at such a specta- 
cle. I am to appear before Mr. Covode, either personally or by 
a substitute, to cross-examine the witnesses which he may pro- 
duce before himself to sustain his own accusations against me, 
and perhaps even this poor boon may be denied to the President. 

" And what is the nature of the investigation which his reso- 
lution proposes to institute ? It is as vague and general as the 
English language affords words in which to make it. The com- 
mittee is to inquire, not into any specific charge or charges, but 
whether the President has, ' by money, patronage, or other 
improper means, sought to influence,' not the action of any 
individual member or members of Congress, but Q the action ' of 
the entire body ' of Congress ' itself, ' or any committee thereof.' 
The President might have had some glimmering of the nature 
of the offence to be investigated, had his accuser pointed to the 
act or acts of Congress which he sought to pass or to defeat by 
the employment of * money, patronage, or other improper means.' 
But the accusation is bounded by no such limits. It extends to 
the whole circle of legislation ; to interference ' for or against 
the passage of any law appertaining to the rights of any State 
or Territory.' And what law does not appertain to the rights 
of some State or Territory % And what law or laws has the 
President failed to execute? These might easily have been 
pointed out had any such existed. 

" Had Mr. Lawless asked an inquiry to be made by the 
House whether Judge Peck, in general terms, had not violated 
his judicial duties, without the specification of any particular 
act, I do not believe there would have been a single vote in that 
body in favor of the inquiry. Since the time of the Star Cham- 
ber and of general warrants, there has been no such proceeding 
in England. 

246 me. Buchanan's administeation 

" The House of Representatives, the high impeaching power 
of the country, without consenting to hear a word of explana- 
tion, have indorsed this accusation against the President, and 
made it their own act.' ' They even refused to permit a member 
to inquire of the President's accuser what Were the specific 
charges against him. Thus, in this preliminary accusation of 
i high crimes and misdemeanors ' against a coordinate branch of 
the Government, under the impeaching power, the House refused 
to hear a single suggestion even in regard to the correct mode 
of proceeding, but, without a moment's delay, passed the accu- 
satory resolutions under the pressure of the previous question. 
In the institution of a prosecution for any oifence against the 
most humble citizen — and I claim for myself no greater rights 
than he enjoys — the Constitution of the United States, and of 
the several States, require that he shall be informed, in the very 
beginning, of the nature and cause of the accusation against 
him, in order to enable him to prepare for his defence. There 
are other principles which I might enumerate, not less sacred, 
presenting an impenetrable shield to protect every citizen falsely 
charged with a criminal offence. These have been violated in 
the prosecution instituted by the House of Representatives 
against the executive branch of the Government. Shall the 
President alone be deprived of the protection of these great 
principles, which prevail in every land where a ray of liberty 
penetrates the gloom of despotism ? Shall the Executive alone 
be deprived of rights which all his fellow-citizens enjoy ? The 
whole proceeding against him justifies the fears of those wise 
and great men who, before the Constitution was adopted by the 
States, apprehended that the tendency of the Government was 
to the aggrandizement of the legislative at the expense of the 
executive and judicial departments. 

" I again declare, emphatically, that I make this protest for 
no reason personal to myself ; and I do it with perfect respect 
for the House of Representatives, in which I had the honor of 
serving as a member for five successive terms. I have lived 
long in this goodly land, and have enjoyed all the offices and 
honors which my country could bestow. Amid all the political 
storms through which I have passed, the present is the first 


attempt which has ever been made, to my knowledge, to assail 
my personal or official integrity ; and this as the time is 
approaching when I shall voluntarily retire from the service of 
my country. I feel proudly conscious that there is no public 
act of my life which will not bear the strictest scrutiny. I defy 
all investigation. Nothing but the basest perjury can sully my 
good name. I do not fear even this, because I cherish an hum- 
ble confidence that the Gracious Being who has hitherto 
defended and protected me against the shafts of falsehood and 
malice will not desert me now, when I have become ' old and 
gray-headed.' I can declare, before God and my country, that 
no human being (with an exception scarcely worthy of notice) has, 
at any period of my life, dared to approach me with a corrupt 
or dishonorable proposition ; and, until recent developments, it 
had never entered into my imagination that any person, even in 
the storm of exasperated political excitement, would charge me, 
in the most remote degree, with having made such a proposi- 
tion to any human being. I may now, however, exclaim, in 
the language of complaint employed by my first and greatest 
predecessor, that I have been abused l in such exaggerated and 
indecent terms as could scarcely be applied to a JSTero, to a 
notorious defaulter, or even to a common pickpocket.' 

" I do, therefore, for the reasons stated, and in the name of 
the people of the several States, solemnly protest against these 
proceedings of the House of Representatives, because they are 
in violation of the rights of the coordinate executive branch 
of the Government, and subversive of its constitutional inde- 
pendence ; because they are calculated to foster a band of inter- 
ested parasites and informers, ever ready, for their own advan- 
tage, to swear before ex parte committees to pretended private 
conversations between the President and themselves, incapable, 
from their nature, of being disproved, thus furnishing material 
for harassing him, degrading him in the eyes of the country, 
and eventually, should he be a weak or a timid man, rendering 
him subservient to improper influences, in order to avoid such 
persecutions and annoyances; because they tend to destroy that 
harmonious action for the common good which ought to be 
maintained, and which I sincerely desire to cherish between 

248 mr. Buchanan's administration 

coordinate branches of the Government ; and, finally, because, 
if unresisted, they would establish a precedent dangerous and 
embarrassing to all my successors, to whatever political party 
they might be attached. 

f< James Buchanan. 

" Washington, March 28ih, 1860. " 

The principles maintained in this message found no favor 
with the majority in the House. It was referred to the Com- 
mittee on the Judiciary, of which Mr. Hickman, of Pennsylvania, 
was chairman.* On the 9th of April, 1861, he reported resolu- 
tions from the majority of the committee in opposition to its 
doctrines, whilst these were sustained by the minority. The 
majority resolutions were adopted by the House on the 8th of 
June following. f 

Meanwhile the Covode Committee continued to pursue its 
secret inquisitorial examinations until the 16th of June, 1860, 
when Mr. Train, one of its members, and not Mr. Covode the 
chairman, made a report from the majority, accompanied by the 
mass of all sorts of testimony which it had collected.^ The 
views of the minority were presented by Mr. Win slow of North 
Carolina, now no more — a man possessing every estimable 
quality both of head and of heart, and one who had enjoyed the 
highest honors which his own State could confer. 

The committee, though it had been engaged for three 
months with vindictive zeal and perseverance in hunting up all 
sorts of testimony against the President and members of his 
Cabinet, yet finally shrunk from the responsibility of reporting 
a single resolution accusing or censuring any one of them. In 
the boundless field it had explored, it failed to discover a single 
point on which it could venture to rest any such resolution. 
This surely was a triumphant result for the President. 

We refrain from now portraying the proceedings of the com- 
mittee in their true light, because this has already been suffi- 
ciently done by the message of the President to the House of the 
28th June, 1860, of which we insert a copy from the Journal. § 

* House Journal, pp. 622, 699. t Ibid., p. 1014. 

X Ibid., p. 1114. § Ibid., p. 1218. 


" To the House op Representatives : 

" In my message to the House of Representatives of the 
28th March last, I solemnly protested against the creation of a 
committee, at the head of which was placed my accuser, for the 
purpose of investigating whether the President had • by money, 
patronage, or other improper means, sought to influence the 
action of Congress, or any committee thereof, for or against the 
passage of any law appertaining to the rights of any State or 
Territory.' I protested against this because it was destitute of 
any specification ; because it referred to no particular act to 
enable the President to prepare for his defence ; because it de- 
prived him of the constitutional guards which, in common with 
every citizen of the United States, he possesses for his protec- 
tion ; and because it assailed his constitutional independence as a 
coordinate branch of the Government. There is an enlightened 
justice, as well as a beautiful symmetry, in every part of the 
Constitution. This is conspicuously manifested in regard to 
impeachments. The House of Representatives possesses ' the 
sole power of impeachment ; ' the Senate ' the sole power to try 
all impeachments ; ' and the impeachable offences are ' treason, 
bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors.' The practice 
of the House, from the earliest times, had been in accordance 
with its own dignity, the rights of the accused, and the demands 
of justice. At the commencement of each judicial investiga- 
tion which might lead to an impeachment, specific charges were 
always preferred ; the accused had an opportunity of cross- 
examining the witnesses, and he was placed in full possession of 
the precise nature of the offence which he had to meet. An 
impartial and elevated standing committee was charged with • 
this investigation, upon which no member inspired with the an- 
cient sense of honor and justice would have served, had he ever 
expressed an opinion against the accused. Until the present 
occasion it was never deemed proper to transform the accuser 
into the judge, and to confer upon him the selection of his own 

" The charges made against me, in vague and general terms, 
were of such a false and atrocious character that I did not en- 
tertain a, moment's apprehension for the result. They were ab- 

250 me. Buchanan's administration 

horrent to every principle instilled into me from my youth, and 
every practice of my life, and I did not believe it possible that 
the man existed who would so basely perjure himself as to swear 
to the truth of any such accusations. In this conviction I am 
informed I have not been mistaken. In my former protest, 
therefore, I truly and emphatically declared that it was made 
for no reason personal to myself, but because the proceedings of 
the House were in violation of the rights of the coordinate ex- 
ecutive branch of the Government, subversive of its constitu- 
tional independence, and, if unresisted, would establish a pre- 
cedent dangerous and embarrassing to all my successors. Not- 
withstanding all this, if the committee had not transcended the 
authority conferred upon it by the resolution of the House of 
Representatives, broad and general as this was, I should have 
remained silent upon the subject. What I now charge is, that 
they have acted as tho ughthey possessed unlimited power, and, 
without any warrant whatever in the resolution under which 
they were appointed, have pursued a course not merely at war 
with the constitutional rights of the Executive, but tending to 
degrade the presidential office itself to such a degree as to ren- 
der it unworthy of the acceptance of any man of honor or prin- 

" The resolution of the House, so far as it is accusatory of 
the President, is confined to an inquiry whether he had used 
corrupt or improper means to influence the action of Congress 
or any of its committees on legislative measures pending before 
them. Nothing more, nothing less. I have not learned through 
the newspapers, or in any other mode, that the committee have 
touched the other accusatory branch of the resolution, charging 
the President with a violation of duty in failing to execute some 
law or laws. This branch of the resolution is therefore out of 
the question. By what authority, then, have the committee 
undertaken to investigate the course of the President in regard 
to the Convention which framed the Lecompton Constitution ? 
By what authority have they undertaken to pry into our foreign 
relations, for the purpose of assailing him on account of the in- 
structions given by the Secretary of State to our Minister in 
Mexico, relative to the Tehuantepec route ? By what authority 


have the j inquired into the causes of removal from office, and 
this from the parties themselves removed, with a view to preju- 
dice his character, notwithstanding this power of removal be- 
longs exclusively to the President under the Constitution, was 
so decided by the first Congress in the year 1789, and has ac- 
cordingly ever since been exercised ? There is in the resolution 
no pretext of authority for the committee to investigate the 
question of the printing of the post-office blanks, nor is it to be 
supposed that the House, if asked, would have granted such an 
authority, because this question had been previously committed 
to two other committees — one in the Senate and the other in the 
House. Notwithstanding this absolute want of power, the com- 
mittee rushed into this investigation in advance of all other 

" The committee proceeded for months, from March 22d, 
1860, to examine ex pcurte, and without any notice to myself, 
into every subject which could possibly affect my character. 
Interested and vindictive witnesses were summoned and exam- 
ined before them ; and the first and only information of their 
testimony which, in almost every instance, I received, was ob- 
tained from the publication of such portions of it as could inju- 
riously affect myself, in the ~New York journals. It mattered 
not that these statements were, so far as I have learned, dis- 
proved by the most respectable witnesses who happened to be 
on the spot. The telegraph was silent respecting these contra- 
dictions. It was a secret committee in regard to the testimony 
in my defence, but it was public in regard to all the testimony 
which could by possibility reflect on my character. The poison 
was left to produce its effect upon the public mind, whilst the 
antidote was carefully withheld. 

"In their examinations the committee violated the most 
sacred and honorable confidences existing among men. Private 
correspondence, which a truly honorable man would never even 
entertain a distant thought of divulging, was dragged to light. 
Different persons in official and confidential relations with my- 
self, and with whom it was supposed I might have held conver- 
sations, the revelation of which would do me injury, were exam- 
ined. Even members of the Senate and members of my own 

252 me. Buchanan's administration 

Cabinet, both my constitutional advisers, were called upon to 
testify, for the purpose of discovering something, if possible, to 
my discredit. 

" The distribution of the patronage of the Government is 
by far the most disagreeable duty of the President. Applicants 
are so numerous, and their applications are pressed with such 
eagerness by their friends both in and out of Congress, that the 
selection of one for any desirable office gives offence to many. 
Disappointed applicants, removed officers, and those who for 
any cause, real or imaginary, had become hostile to the admin- 
istration, presented themselves, or were invited by a summons 
to appear before the committee. These are the most dangerous 
witnesses. Even with the best intentions, they are so influenced 
by prejudice and disappointment, that they Almost inevitably 
discolor truth. They swear to their own version of private con- 
versations with the President without the possibility of contra- 
diction. His lips are sealed and he is left at their mercy. He 
cannot, as a coordinate branch of the Government, appear before 
a committee of investigation to contradict the oaths of such 
witnesses. Every coward knows that he can employ insulting 
language against the President with impunity, and every false 
or prejudiced witness can attempt to swear away his character 
before such a committee without the fear of contradiction. 

" Thus for months, whilst doing my best at one end of the 
avenue to perform my high and responsible duties to the coun- 
try, has there been a committee of the House of Representatives 
in session at the other end of the avenue, spreading a drag-net, 
without the shadow of authority from the House, over the whole 
Union, to catch any disappointed man willing to malign my 
character, and all this in secret conclave. The lion's mouth at 
Venice, into which secret denunciations were dropped, is an apt 
illustration of the Covode Committee. The Star Chamber, 
tyrannical and odious as it was, never proceeded in such a man- 
ner. For centuries there has been nothing like it in any civil- 
ized country, except the revolutionary tribunal of France, in the 
days of Robespierre. Now, I undertake to state and to prove 
that should the proceedings of the committee be sanctioned by 
the House, and become a precedent for future times, the balance 


of the Constitution will be entirely upset, and there will no long- 
er remain the three coordinate and independent branches of 
the Government— legislative, executive, and judicial. The 
worst fears of the patriots and statesmen who framed the Con- 
stitution in regard to the usurpations of the legislative on the 
executive and judicial branches will then be realized. In the 
language of Mr. Madison, speaking on this very subject, in the 
forty-eighth number of the ' Federalist : ' ' In a representative 
republic, where the executive magistracy is carefully limited 
both in the extent and duration of its power, and where the 
legislative power is exercised by an assembly which is inspired, 
by a supposed influence over the people, with an intrepid confi- 
dence in its own strength, which is sufficiently numerous to feel 
all the passions which actuate a multitude, yet not so numerous 
as to be incapable of pursuing the objects of its passions by 
means which reason prescribes, it is against the enterprising 
ambition of this department that the people ought to indulge 
all their jealousy and exhaust all their precautions.' And in 
the expressive and pointed language of Mr. Jefferson, when 
speaking of the tendency of the legislative branch of Govern- 
ment to usurp the rights of the weaker branches : ' The concen- 
trating these in the same hands is precisely the definition of des- 
potic government. It will be no alleviation that these powers 
will be exercised by a plurality of hands, and not by a single 
one. One hundred and seventy-three despots would surely be 
as oppressive as one. Let those who doubt it turn their eyes on 
the Republic of Yenice. As little will it avail us that they are 
chosen by ourselves. An elective despotism was not the gov- 
ernment we fought for, but one which should not only be 
founded on free principles, but in which the powers of govern- 
ment should be so divided and balanced among several bodies 
of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits 
without being effectually checked and controlled by the others.' 
" Should the proceedings of the Covode Committee become 
a precedent, both the letter and spirit of the Constitution will 
be violated. One of the three massive columns on which the 
whole superstructure rests will be broken down. Instead of the 
executive being a coordinate, it will become a subordinate 

254 me. Buchanan's administration 

branch of the Government. The presidential office will be 
dragged into the dust. The House of Eepresentatives will 
then have rendered the Executive almost necessarily subservient 
to its wishes, instead of being independent. How is it possible 
that two powers in the State can be coordinate and independent 
of each other, if the one claims and exercises the power to 
reprove and to censure all the official acts and all the private 
conversations of the other, and this upon ex parte testimony 
before a secret inquisitorial committee — in short, to assume a 
general censorship over the others ? The idea is as absurd in 
public as it would be in private life. Should the President 
attempt to assert and maintain his own independence, future 
Covode Committees may dragoon him into submission by 
collecting the hosts of disappointed office-hunters, removed offi- 
cers, and those who desire to live upon the public treasury, 
which must follow in the wake of every administration, and 
they, in secret conclave, will swear away his reputation. Under 
such circumstances, he must be a very bold man should he not 
surrender at discretion and consent to exercise his authority ac- 
cording to the will of those invested with this terrific power. 
The sovereign people of the several States have elected him to 
the highest and most honorable office in the world. He is 
their only direct representative in the Government. By their 
Constitution they have made him commander-in-chief of their 
army and navy. He represents them in their intercourse with 
foreign nations. Clothed with their dignity and authority, he 
occupies a proud position before all nations, civilized and sav- 
age. "With the consent of the Senate, he appoints all the im- 
portant officers of the Government. He exercises the veto 
power, and to that extent controls the legislation of Congress. 
For the performance of these high duties he is responsible to 
the people of the several States, and not in any degree to the 
House of Eepresentatives. 

" Shall he surrender these high powers, conferred upon him 
as the representative of the American people, for their benefit, to 
the House, to be exercised under their overshadowing influence 
and control ? Shall he alone of all the citizens of the United 
States be denied a fair trial ? Shall he alone not be ' informed 


of the nature and cause of the accusation ' against him ? Shall 
he alone not ' be confronted with the witnesses ' against him ? 
Shall the House of Representatives, usurping the powers of the 
Senate, proceed to try the President, through the agency of a 
secret committee of the body where it is impossible he can 
make any defence, and then, without affording him an oppor- 
tunity of being heard, pronounce a judgment of censure against 
him ? The very same rule might be applied, for the very same 
reason, to every judge of every court of the United States. 
From what part of the Constitution is this terrible secret inquisi- 
torial power derived? JSTo such express power exists. From 
which of the enumerated powers can it be inferred? It is 
true the House cannot pronounce the formal judgment against 
him of l removal from office,' but they can, by their judgment 
of censure, asperse his reputation, and thus, to the extent of 
their influence, render the office contemptible. An example is 
at hand of the reckless manner in which this power of censure 
can be employed in high party times. The House, on a recent 
occasion, have attempted to degrade the President by adopting 
the resolution of Mr. John Sherman, declaring that he, in con- 
junction with the Secretary of the Navy, • by receiving and con- 
sidering the party relations of bidders for contracts, and the 
effect of awarding contracts upon pending elections, have set an 
example dangerous to the public safety, and deserving the re- 
proof of this House.' 

" It will scarcely be credited that the sole pretext for this 
vote of censure was the simple fact that in disposing of the 
numerous letters of every imaginable character which I daily 
receive, I had, in the usual course of business, referred a letter 
from Colonel Patterson, of Philadelphia, in relation to a con- 
tract, to the attention of the Secretary of the Navy, the head of 
the appropriate department, without expressing or intimating 
any opinion whatever on the subject ; and to make the matter, 
if possible, still plainer, the Secretary had informed the com- 
mittee that ' the President did not in any manner interfere in 
this ease, nor has he in any other case of contract since I have 
been in the department.'' The absence of all proof to sustain 
this attempt to degrade the President, whilst it manifests the 

256 mb. Buchanan's administration 

venom of the shaft aimed at him, has destroyed the vigor of 
the bow. 

" To return, after this digression. Should the House, by the 
institution of Covode committees, votes of censure, and other 
devices to harass the President, reduce him to subservience to 
their will, and render him their creature, then the well-balanced 
Government which our fathers framed will be annihilated. This 
conflict has already been commenced in earnest by the House 
against the Executive. A bad precedent rarely if ever dies. 
It will, I fear, be pursued in the time of my successors, no mat- 
ter what may be their political character. Should secret com- 
mittees be appointed with unlimited authority to range over all 
the words and actions, and, if possible, the very thoughts of the 
President, with a view to discover something in his past life 
prejudicial to his character, from parasites and informers, this 
would be an ordeal which scarcely any mere man since the fall 
could endure. It would be to subject him to a reign of terror 
from which the stoutest and purest heart might shrink. I have 
passed triumphantly through this ordeal. My vindication is 
complete. The committee have reported no resolution looking 
to an impeachment against me ; no resolution of censure ; not 
even a resolution pointing out any abuses in any of the execu- 
tive departments of the Government to be corrected by legis- 
lation. This is the highest commendation which could be be- 
stowed on the heads of these departments. The sovereign peo- 
ple of the States will, however, I trust, save my successors, who- 
ever they may be, from any such ordeal. They are frank, bold, 
and honest. They detest delators and informers. I therefore, 
in the name and as the representative of this great people, and 
standing upon the ramparts of the Constitution which they 
4 have ordained and established,' do solemnly protest against 
these unprecedented and unconstitutional proceedings. 

" There was still another committee raised by the House on 
the 6th March last, on motion of Mr. Hoard, to which I had 
not the slightest objection. The resolution creating it was con- 
fined to specific charges, which I have ever since been ready and 
willing to meet. I have at all times invited and defied fair in- 
vestigation upon constitutional principles. I have received 


no notice that this committee have ever proceeded to the inves- 

" "Why should the House of Representatives desire to en- 
croach on the other departments of the Government? Their 
rightful powers are ample for every legitimate purpose. They 
are the impeaching body. In their legislative capacity it is 
their most wise and wholesome prerogative to institute rigid 
examinations into the manner in which all departments of the 
Government are conducted, with a view to reform abuses, to 
promote economy, and to improve every branch of administra- 
tion. Should they find reason to believe, in the course of their 
examinations, that any grave offence had been committed by 
the President or any officer of the Government, rendering it 
proper, in their judgment, to resort to impeachment, their course 
would be plain. They would then transfer the question from 
their legislative to their accusatory jurisdiction, and take care 
that in all the preliminary judicial proceedings, preparatory to 
the vote of articles of impeachment, the accused should enjoy 
the benefit of cross-examining the witnesses, and all the other 
safeguards with which the Constitution surrounds every Ameri- 
can citizen. 

" If, in a legislative investigation, it should appear that the 
public interest required the removal of any officer of the Gov- 
ernment, no President has ever existed who, after giving him a 
fair hearing, would hesitate to apply the remedy. This I take 
to be the ancient and well-established practice. An adherence 
to it will best promote the harmony and the dignity of the in- 
tercourse between the coordinate branches of the Government, 
and render us all more respectable both in the eyes of our own 
countrymen and of foreign nations. 

"James Buchanan. 

11 Washington, June 22, I860." 

On the reading of this message it was, on motion of Mr. 
Benjamin Stanton, of Ohio, referred to a select committee, con- 
sisting of himself, Mr. Curry, Mr. Charles F. Adams, Mr. Sedg- 
wick, and Mr. Pry or, which was instructed to report to the 
House at the next session. ~Ro report was ever made. Thus 
ended the Covode Committee. 

258 me. Buchanan's administration 


The successful foreign policy of the administration with Spain, Great Britain, China, 
and Paraguay — Condition of the Mexican Republic ; and the recommendations to 
Congress thereupon not regarded, and the effect — The origin, history, and nature 
of the "Monroe Doctrine" — The treaty with Mexico not ratified by the Senate, 
and the consequences. 

The administration of Mr. Buchanan, in conducting our 
foreign affairs, met with great and uncommon success. 


Our relations with Spain were in a very unsatisfactory con- 
dition on his accession to power. Our flag had been insulted, 
and numerous injuries had been inflicted on the persons and 
property of American citizens by Spanish officials acting un- 
der the direct control of the Captain General of Cuba. These 
gave rise to many but unavailing reclamations for redress and 
indemnity against the Spanish Government. Our successive 
ministers at Madrid had for years ably presented and enforced 
these claims, but all without effect. Their efforts were contin- 
ually baffled on different pretexts. There was a class of these 
claims called the " Cuban claims," of a nature so plainly just 
that they could not be gainsaye^. In these more than one hun- 
dred of our citizens were directly interested. In 1844 duties 
had been illegally exacted from their vessels at different custom 
houses in Cuba, and they appealed to their Government to have 
these duties refunded. Their amount could be easily ascertained 
by the Cuban officials themselves, who were in possession of all 
the necessary documents. The validity of these claims was 


eventually recognized by Spain, but not until after a delay of 
ten years. The amount due was fixed, according to her own 
statement, with which the claimants were satisfied, at the sum 
of $128,635.54. Just at the moment when the claimants were 
expecting to receive this amount without further delay, the 
Spanish Government proposed to pay, not the whole, but only 
one-third of it, and this provided we should accept it in full 
satisfaction of the entire claim. They added that this oner was 
made, not in strict justice, but as a special favor. 

Under these circumstances, the time had arrived when the 
President deemed it his duty to employ strong and vigorous 
remonstrances to bring all our claims against Spain to a satis- 
factory conclusion. In this he succeeded in a manner gratify- 
ing to himself, and it is believed to all the claimants, but unfortu- 
nately not to the Senate of the United States. A convention 
was concluded at Madrid on the 5th March, i860, establishing 
a joint commission for the final adjudication and payment of all 
the claims of the respective parties. By this the validity and 
amount of the Cuban claims were expressly admitted, and their 
speedy payment was placed beyond question. The convention 
was transmitted to the Senate for their constitutional action on 
the 3d May, 1860, but on the 27th June they determined, greatly 
to the surprise of the President, and the disappointment of the 
claimants, that they would " not advise and consent " to its rat- 

The reason for this decision, because made in executive ses- 
sion, cannot be positively known. This, as stated and believed 
at the time, was because the convention had authorized the Span- 
ish Government to present its Amistad claim, like any other 
claim, before the Board of Commissioners for decision. This 
claim, it will be recollected, was for the payment to the Spanish 
owners of the value of certain slaves, for which the Spanish 
Government held the United States to be responsible under the 
treaty with Spain of the 27th .October, 1795. Such was the 
evidence in its favor, that three Presidents of the United States 
had recommended to Congress to make an appropriation for its 
payment, and a bill for this purpose had passed the Senate. 
The validity of the claim, it is proper to observe, was not rec- 


ognized by the convention. In this respect it was placed on 
the same footing with all the other claims of the parties, with 
the exception of the Cuban claims. All the Spanish Govern- 
ment obtained for it was simply a hearing before the Board, and 
this could not be denied with any show of impartiality. Be- 
sides, it is quite certain that no convention could have been 
concluded without such a provision. 

It was most probably the extreme views of the Senate at the 
time against slavery, and their reluctance to recognize it even so 
far as to permit a foreign claimant, although under the sanction 
of a treaty, to raise a question before the Board which might 
involve its existence, that caused the rejection of the conven- 
tion. Under the impulse of such sentiments, the claims of our 
fellow-citizens have been postponed if not finally defeated. In- 
deed, the Cuban claimants, learning that the objections in the 
Senate arose from the Amistad claim, made a formal offer to 
remove the difficulty by deducting its amount from the sum due 
to them, but this of course could not be accepted. 


With Great Britain our relations were in a most unsatisfac- 
tory condition at the commencement of Mr. Buchanan's admin- 
istration. Two irritating and dangerous questions were pend- 
ing between them, either of which might at any moment have 
involved them in war. The first arose out of her claim to a 
protectorate over the Mosquito Coast, and her establishment of 
a colonial government over the Bay Islands, which territories 
belonged respectively to the feeble Central American Republics 
of Nicaragua and Honduras. These acts of usurpation on the 
part of the British Government were in direct violation of the 
Monroe doctrine, which has been so wisely and strenuously 
maintained by our Government ever since it was announced. 
It was believed that the Clayton and Bulwer treaty, concluded 
in April, 1850, under the administration of General Taylor, 
had settled these questions in favor of the United States, and 
that Great Britain would withdraw from the territories of 
Nicaragua and Honduras. But not so. She still persisted in 


holding them. She even contended that the treaty only pro- 
hibited her from making future acquisitions in Central America, 
and by inference admitted the right to hold all her then ex- 
isting possessions. The true construction of this treaty was the 
subject of a prolonged correspondence between Mr. Buchanan 
while Minister in London and the British Government. This 
produced no effect at the time. After he became President, 
however, the question was amicably and honorably settled, under 
his advice and approbation, by treaties between Great Britain 
and the two Central American States, in accordance with our 
construction of the Clayton and Bulwer treaty. 

Great Britain, both before and after the war of 1812, had 
persistently claimed the right of search. Her exercise of this 
right in the spring of 1858 had nearly involved the two coun- 
tries in war. The American people have ever been peculiarly 
sensitive against any attempt, from whatever power, to invade 
the freedom of the seas. This their whole history attests from 
the days of the Revolution. The question was now brought to 
direct issue by the British Government, from which there could 
be no escape. At this period she despatched a number of 
small armed vessels, which had been employed in the Crimean 
war, to the coast of Cuba and the Gulf of Mexico, with instruc- 
tions to search American merchantmen whom they might sus- 
pect as slave-traders. These waters are traversed by a large 
portion of our navigation, and their free and uninterrupted use 
is essential to the security of our coastwise trade between the 
different States. This was all placed at the mercy of the junior 
officers in command of these small vessels. They proceeded at 
once to execute their orders. They forcibly boarded and 
searched numerous American vessels, and this often, as might 
have been expected, in a rude and offensive manner. Day 
after day reports of these violent proceedings succeeded each 
other, and produced general indignation throughout the coun- 
try. The call of the people was loud for immediate redress. 
The President remonstrated to the British Government against 
these deliberate violations of our national sovereignty, but judg- 
ing from the experience of the past, this would have proved 
unavailing. It had become necessary to resist force by force. 

262 me. Buchanan's administration 

Without awaiting the action of Congress, he assumed this respon- 
sibility, which he thought the exigency demanded and would 
justify. He accordingly ordered every ship of war within reach to 
the Gulf, with instructions, from the Secretary of the Navy "to 
protect all vessels of the United States on the high seas from 
search or detention by the vessels of war of any other nation." 
This decisive measure received the unqualified and enthusiastic 
approbation of the American people, and the Senate, though 
somewhat tardily, approved it by an unanimous vote.* Had an 
attempt been afterwards made to search any of our vessels, this 
would have been resisted by force; a collision between the 
armed vessels of the two powers, acting under the authority of 
each, would have occurred, and this would have been the com- 
mencement of hostilities. 

But fortunately no collision took place. The British Gov- 
ernment became sensible they were in the wrong, and at once 
recalled the orders under which their commanders had acted. 
They did far more. They abandoned their claim to the right of 
search, for which they had so long contended, and recognized 
the validity of the principle of international law in favor of the 
freedom of the seas, always maintained by our own Government. 
Thus have vessels of the United States been forever secured 
from visitation and search by British cruisers, in time of peace, 
under any circumstances whatever. 

In this satisfactory manner was 1 the long controversy be- 
tween the two Governments finally settled. "We deem it proper 
here to insert an extract from the annual report of the Secre- 
tary of the Navy (Mr. Toucey), to the President, of the 6th De- 
cember, 1858,f in which he states the action of his Department 
in carrying into effect the instructions of the President. The 
Secretary says : " The force sent into the neighborhood of Cuba 
to resist the exercise of the right of search by British cruisers, 
consisted of the steam frigates Wabash and Colorado ; the sloops 
of war Macedonian, Constellation, Jamestown, Saratoga, a'nd 
Plymouth ; the steamers Water Witch, Arctic, Fulton, and De- 
spatch, and the brig Dolphin comprising the Mediterranean 
squadron under Flag Officer Lavallette, the home squadron 

* Congressional Globe, p. S061. t Senate Documents, vol. iv., p. 3. 


tinder Flag Officer Mcintosh, and such other vessels as were 
sent out specially for the 'purpose. They were all deemed ef- 
fective for the object for which they were sent, because in the 
execution of their mission no one of them would have hesitated 
to resist a ship of the largest class. ' They were instructed to 
protect all vessels of the United States against the exercise of 
the right of search on the high seas, in time of peace, by the 
armed vessels of any other power. These instructions have 
been often repeated, and are now regarded as standing instruc- 
tions to the navy of the United States wherever employed. 
They put the deck of an American vessel on the same footing 
with American soil, the invasion of which under foreign author- 
ity is to be as strenuously resisted in the one case as in the other. 
They regard such invasion as in the highest degree offensive to 
the United States, incompatible with their sovereignty and with 
the freedom of the seas, and to be met and resisted by the whole 
power of the country. It was your policy promptly and deci- 
sively to embrace the opportunity to bring this question of right, 
upon which we had gone through one war and half a century 
of negotiation, to final issue, by placing all other nations in a 
posture where they must either fight for it or abandon it. The 
result has proved the wisdom of the measure." 


The same success attended our negotiations with China.* 
The treaty of July, 1844, with that empire, had provided for 
its own revision and amendment at the expiration of twelve 
years from its date, should experience render this necessary. 
Changes in its provisions had now become indispensable for the 
security and extension of our commerce. Besides, our mer- 
chants had just claims against the Chinese Government, for inju- 
ries sustained in violation of the treaty. To effect these changes, 
and to obtain indemnity for these injuries, the Hon. William B. 
Reed was sent as Minister to China. His position proved to be 
one of great delicacy. England and France were engaged in 
war against China, and urged the United States to become a 

* Message, 8th December, 1857, p. 14. 

264 me. Buchanan's administration 

party to it. They alleged that it had been undertaken to ac- 
complish objects in which we had a common interest with them- 
selves. This was the fact ; but the President did not believe 
that our grievances, although serious, would justify a resort to 
hostilities. Whilst Mr. Reed was, therefore, directed to pre- 
serve a strict neutrality between the belligerents, he was in- 
structed to cooperate cordially with the Ministers of England 
and France in all peaceful measures to secure by treaty those 
just concessions to commerce which the civilized nations of the 
world had a right to expect from China. The Russian Govern- 
ment, also, pursued the same line of policy. 

The difficulty, then, was to obtain for our country, whilst 
remaining at peace, the same commercial advantages which 
England and France might acquire by war. This task our Min- 
ister performed with tact, ability, and success, by the conclusion 
of the treaty of Tientsin of the 18th June, 1858, and the two 
supplemental conventions of Shanghae of the 8th November 
following.* These have placed our commercial relations with 
China on the same satisfactory footing with those of England 
and France, and have resulted in the actual payment of the full 
amount of all the just claims of our citizens, leaving a surplus 
to the .credit of the Treasury. This object has been accom- 
plished, whilst our friendly relations with the Chinese Govern- 
ment were never for a moment interrupted, but on the contrary 
have been greatly strengthened. 


The hostile attitude of the Government of Paraguay toward 
the United States early commanded the attention of the Presi- 
dent. That Government had, upon frivolous and even insulting 
pretexts, refused to ratify the ■ treaty of friendship, commerce, 
and navigation, concluded with it on the 4th March, 1853, as 
amended by the Senate, though this only in mere matters of 
form.f It had seized and appropriated the property of Ameri- 
can citizens residing in Paraguay, in a violent and arbitrary 

* Pamphlet Laws, 1861-62, p. 177, appendix. 

t Senate Documents, 1857-58, vol. ii., p. 85, etc., etc. 


manner ; and finally, by order of President Lopez, it had fired 
upon the United States steamer Water Witch (1st February ? 
1855), under Commander Thomas J. Page of the navy, and 
killed the sailor at the helm, whilst she was peacefully employed 
in surveying the Parana river, to ascertain its fitness for steam 
navigation. The honor, as well as the interest of the country, 
demanded satisfaction. 

The President brought the subject to the notice of Congress 
in his first annual message (8th December, 1857). In this he 
informed them that he would make a demand for redress on the 
Government of Paraguay, in a firm but conciliatory manner, 
but at the same time observed, that " this will the more prob- 
ably be granted, if the Executive shall have authority to use 
other means in the event of a refusal. This is accordingly rec- 
ommended." Congress responded favorably to this recommen- 
dation. On the 2d June, 1858,* they passed a joint resolution 
authorizing the President " to adopt such measures, and use 
such force as, in his judgment, may be necessary and advisable, 
in the event of a refusal of just satisfaction by the Government 
of Paraguay," " in connection with the attack on the United 
States steamer Water Witch, and with other matters referred to 
in the annual message." f They also made an appropriation 
to defray the expenses of a commissioner to Paraguay, should 
he deem it proper to appoint one, " for the adjustment of diffi- 
culties " with that Republic. 

Paraguay is situated far in the interior of South America, 
and its capital, the city of Asuncion, on the left bank of the 
river Paraguay, is more than a thousand miles from the mouth 
of the La Plata. 

The stern policy of Dr. Francia, formerly the Dictator of 
Paraguay, had been to exclude all the rest of the world from 
his dominions, and in this he had succeeded by the most severe 
and arbitrary measures. His successor, President Lopez, found 
it necessary, in some degree, to relax this jealous policy ; but, 
animated by the same spirit, he imposed harsh restrictions in his 
intercourse with foreigners. Protected by his remote and se- 
cluded position, he but little apprehended that a navy from our 

* U. S. Stat, at Large, vol. xi., p. 370. t Ibid., p. 319. 


far distant country conld ascend the La Plata, the Parana, and 
the Paraguay, and reach his capital. This was doubtless the 
reason why he had ventured to place us at defiance. Under 
these circumstances the President deemed it advisable to send 
with our commissioner to Paraguay, Hon. James B. Bowlin, a na- 
val force sufficient to exact justice should negotiation fail.* This 
consisted of nineteen armed vessels, great and small, carrying two 
hundred guns and twenty-five hundred sailors and marines, all 
under the command of the veteran and gallant Shubrick. Soon 
after the arrival of the expedition at Montevideo, Commis- 
sioner Bowlin and Commodore Shubrick proceeded (30th De- 
cember, 1858) to ascend the rivers to Asuncion in the steamer 
Fulton, accompanied by the Water Witch. Meanwhile the re-, 
maining vessels rendezvoused in the Parana, near Rosario, a 
position from which they could act promptly, in case of need. 

The commissioner arrived at Asuncion on the 25th Janu- 
ary, 1859, and left it on the 10th February. "Within this brief 
period he had ably and successfully accomplished all the objects 
of his mission. In addition to ample apologies, he obtained 
from President Lopez the payment of $10,000 for the family of 
the seaman (Chaney) who had been killed in the attack on the 
Water Witch, and also concluded satisfactory treaties of indem- 
nity and of navigation and commerce with the Paraguayan 
Government. f Thus the President was enabled to announce 
to Congress, in his annual message (December, 1859), that 
" all our difficulties with Paraguay had been satisfactorily ad- 

Even in this brief summary it would be unjust to withhold 

from Secretary Toucey a commendation for the economy and 
efficiency he displayed in fitting out this expedition .J It is a 
remarkable fact in our history, that its entire expenses were de- 
frayed out of the ordinary appropriations for the naval service. 
Not a dollar was appropriated by Congress for this purpose, 
unless we may except the sum of $289,000 for the purchase of 
seven small steamers of light draft, worth more than their cost, 

* Message 19th Dec., 1859. 

t United States Pamphlet Laws, 1859-60, p. 119, appendix. 

+ Report of Sec. Toucey, 2d Dec, 1859; Sen. Doc. 1859-' 60, vol. iii., p. 1137. 


and which were afterwards usefully employed in the ordinary 
naval service.* 

It may be remarked that the President, in his message 
already referred to, justly observes, " that the appearance of 
so large a force, fitted out in such a prompt manner, in the far 
distant waters of the La Plata, and the admirable conduct of 
the officers and men employed in it, have had a happy effect 
in favor of our country throughout all that remote portion of 
the world." 


The relations of the United States with Mexico on the 
accession of Mr. Buchanan to the Presidency in March, 1857, 
were of an unfriendly and almost hostile character. That Re- 
public had been in a state of constant revolution ever since it 
achieved its independence from Spain. The various constitu- 
tions adopted from time to time had been set at naught almost 
as soon as proclaimed ; and one military leader after another, 
in rapid succession, had usurped the government. This fine 
country, blessed with a benign climate, a fertile soil, and vast 
mineral resources, was reduced by civil war and brigandage to 
a condition of almost hopeless anarchy. Meanwhile, our trea- 
ties with the Republic were incessantly violated. Our citizens 
were imprisoned, expelled from the country, and in some instan- 
ces murdered. Their vessels, merchandise, and other property 
were seized and confiscated. While the central Government 
at the capital were acting in this manner, such was the general 
lawlessness prevailing, that different parties claiming and exer- 
cising local authority in several districts were committing simi- 
lar outrages on our citizens. Our treaties had become a dead 
letter, and our commerce with the Republic was almost entirely 
destroyed. The claims jof American citizens filed in the State 
Department, for which they asked the interposition of their own 
Government with that of Mexico to obtain redress and indem- 
nity, exceeded $10,000,000. Although this amount may have 

* Letter of Sec. Toucey, May 11, 1860, to Committee on Naval Expenditures, vol. 
vi., No. 86 Miscellaneous Doc. of H. R. 

268 mb. Buchanan's administration 

been exaggerated by the claimants, still their actual losses must 
have been very large.* 

In all these cases as they occurred our successive ministers 
demanded redress; but their demands were only followed by 
new injuries. Their testimony was uniform and emphatic in 
reference to the only remedy which in their judgments would 
prove effectual. " Nothing but a manifestation of the power 
of the Government of the United States," wrote Mr. John For- 
syth, our Minister in 1856, " and of its purpose to punish these 
wrongs, will avail. I assure you that the universal belief here 
is, that there is nothing to be apprehended from the Government 
of the United States, and that local Mexican officials can com- 
mit these outrages upon American citizens with absolute im- 

In the year 1857 a favorable change occurred in the affairs 
of the Republic, inspiring better hopes for the future. A con- 
stituent Congress, elected by the people of the different States 
for this purpose, had framed and adopted a republican Consti- 
tution. It adjourned on the 17th February, 1857, having pro- 
vided for a popular election to be held in July for a President 
and members of Congress. At this election General Comonfort 
was chosen President almost without opposition. His term of 
office was to commence on the 1st of December, 1857, and to 
continue for four years. In case his office should become vacant, 
the Constitution had provided that the Chief Justice of Mexico, 
then General Juarez, should become President, until the end of 
the term. On the 1st December, 1857, General Comonfort 
appeared before the Congress then in session, took the oath to 
support the Constitution, and was duly inaugurated. 

But the hopes thus inspired for the establishment of a regu- 
lar constitutional Government soon proved delusive. Presi- 
dent Comonfort, within one brief month, was driven from the 
capital and the Republic by a military rebellion headed by 
General Zuloaga ; and General Juarez consequently became the 
constitutional President of Mexico until the 1st day of Decem- 
ber, 1861. General Zuloaga instantly assumed the name of 

* List of Claims, Senate Executive Documents, p. 18, 2d session 35th Congress, 
President's Message. 


President with indefinite powers; and the entire diplomatic 
corps, including the minister from the United States, made haste 
to recognize the authority of the usurper without awaiting in- 
structions from their respective Governments. But Zuloaga 
was speedily expelled from power. Having encountered the 
resistance of the people in many parts of the Republic, and a 
large portion of the army in the capital having " pronounced " 
against him, he was in turn compelled to relinquish the Presi- 
dency. The field was now cleared for the elevation of General 
Miramon. He had from the beginning been the favorite of the 
so-called " Church party," and was ready to become their will- 
ing instrument in maintaining the vast estates and prerogatives 
of the Church, and in suppressing the Liberal Constitution. An 
assembly of his partisans, called together without even the sem- 
blance of authority, elected him President ; but he warily 
refused to accept the office at their hands. He then resorted to 
another but scarcely more plausible expedient to place himself 
in power. This was to identify himself with General Zuloaga, 
who had just been deposed, and to bring him again upon the 
stage as President. Zuloaga accordingly reappeared in this 
character ; but his only act was to appoint Miramon " President 
Substitute," when he again retired. It is under this title that 
Miramon has since exercised military authority in the city 
of Mexico, expecting by this stratagem to appropriate to himself 
the recognition of the foreign ministers which had been granted 
to Zuloaga. He succeeded. The ministers continued their 
relations with him as " President Substitute " in the same man- 
ner as if Zuloaga had still remained in power. It was by this 
farce, for it deserves no better name, that Miramon succeeded 
in grasping the Presidency. The idea that the chief of a nation 
at his own discretion may transfer to whomsoever he may please 
the trust of governing delegated to him for the benefit of the 
people, is too absurd to receive a moment's countenance. But 
when we reflect that Zuloaga, from whom Miramon derived his 
title, was himself a military usurper, having expelled the consti- 
tutional President (Comonfort) from office, it would have been 
a lasting disgrace to the Mexican people had they tamely sub- 
mitted to the yoke. To such an imputation a large majority 

270 me. Buchanan's administration 

proved themselves not to be justly exposed. Although, on 
former occasions, a seizure of the capital and the usurpation of 
power by a military chieftain had been generally followed, at 
least for a brief season, by an acquiescence of the Mexican peo- 
ple, yet they now rose boldly and independently to defend their 

President Juarez, after having been driven from the city of 
Mexico by Zuloaga, proceeded to form a constitutional Govern- 
ment at Guanajuato. From thence he removed to Vera Cruz, 
where he put his administration in successful .operation. The 
people in many portions of the Republic rallied in its support 
and flew to arms. A civil war thus began between the friends 
of the Constitution and the partisans of Miramon. In this con- 
flict it was not possible for the American people to remain in- 
different spectators. They naturally favored the cause of Pres- 
ident Juarez, and expressed ardent wishes for his success. 
Meanwhile Mr. Forsyth, the American Minister, still continued 
at the city of Mexico in the discharge of his official duties 
until June, 1858, when he suspended his diplomatic relations 
with the Miramon Government, until he should ascertain the 
decision of the President. Its outrages toward American citi- 
zens and its personal indignities toward himself, without hope 
of amendment or redress, rendered his condition no longer 
tolerable. Our relations, bad as they had been under former 
governments, had now become still worse under that of Mira- 
mon. President Buchanan approved the step which Mr. For- 
syth had taken. He was consequently directed to demand his 
passports, to deposit the archives of the legation with Mr. Black, 
our consul at the city of Mexico, and to proceed to Vera Cruz, 
where an armed steamer would be in readiness to convey him- 
self and family to the Unted States.* 

Thus was all diplomatic intercourse finally terminated with 
the Government of Miramon ; whilst none had been organ- 
ized with that of Juarez. The President entertained some 
hope that this rupture of diplomatic relations might cause 
Miramon to reflect seriously on the danger of war with the 

* Letter of General Cass to Mr. Forsyth, July 15th, 1858. Senate Documents, 
1858-'59, vol. i., p. 48. 


United States, and might at least arrest future outrages on 
our citizens. Instead of this, however, he persisted in his 
course of violence against the few American citizens who had 
the courage to remain under his power. The President in his 
message of December, 1859,* informs Congress that " murders 
of a still more atrocious character have been committed in the 
very heart of Mexico, under the authority of Miramon's Gov- 
ernment, during the present year. Some of these were worthy 
only of a barbarous age, and if they had not been clearly proven, 
would have seemed impossible in a country which claims to be 
civilized." And in that of December, 1860, he says : " To cap 
the climax, after the battle of Tacubaya, in April, 1859, General 
Marquez ordered three citizens of the United States, two of 
them physicians, to be seized in the hospital at that place, taken 
out and shot, without crime, and without trial. This was done, 
notwithstanding our unfortunate countrymen were, at the mo- 
ment engaged in the holy cause of affording relief to the soldiers 
of both parties who had been wounded in the battle, without 
making any distinction between them." 

" Little less shocking was the recent fate of Ormond Chase, 
who was shot in Tepic on the 7th August by order of the same 
Mexican general, not only without a trial, but without any con- 
jecture by his friends of the cause of his arrest." He was rep- 
resented to have been a young man of good character and in- 
telligence, who had made numerous friends in Tepic, and his 
unexpected execution shocked the whole community. " Other 
outrages," the President states, " might be enumerated ; but these 
are sufficient to illustrate the wretched state of the country and 
the unprotected condition of the persons and property of our 
citizens in Mexico." 

"The wrongs which we have suffered from Mexico are 
before the world, and must deeply impress every American citi- 
zen. A Government which is either unable or unwilling to 
redress such wrongs, is derelict to its highest duties." 

Meanwhile the civil war between the parties was conducted 
with various success ; but the scale preponderated in favor 
of the Constitutional cause. Ere long the Government of 

* House Journal, p. 207. 

272 mb. Buchanan's admtnistbation 

Juarez extended its authority and was acknowledged in all 
the important ports and throughout the sea-coasts and ex- 
ternal territory of the Republic ; whilst the power of Mira- 
mon was confined to the city of Mexico and the surround- 
ing States. 

* The final triumph of Juarez became so probable, that Presi- 
dent Buchanan deemed it his duty to inquire and ascertain 
whether, according to our constant usage in such cases, he 
might not recognize the Constitutional Government. For the 
purpose of obtaining reliable information on this point, he sent 
a confidential agent to Mexico to examine and report the actual 
condition and prospects of the belligerents. In consequence of 
his report, as well as of intelligence from other sources, he felt 
justified in appointing a new minister to the Mexican Repub- 
lic. For this office Mr. Robert M. McLane, a distinguished 
citizen of Maryland, was selected. He proceeded on his mission 
on the 8th March, 1859, invested " with discretionary authority 
to recognize the Government of President Juarez, if on his arri- 
val in Mexico he should find it entitled to such recognition, ac- 
cording to the established practice of the United States." In con- 
sequence, on the 7th of April Mr. McLane recognized the Con- 
stitutional Government by presenting his credentials to Presi- 
dent Juarez, having no hesitation, as he said, " in pronouncing 
the Government of Juarez to be the only existing Government 
of the Republic." He was cordially received by the authorities 
at Yera Cruz, who have ever since manifested the* most friendly 
disposition toward the United States. 

Unhapily, however, the Constitutional Government, though 
supported by a large majority both of the people and of the 
several Mexican States, had not been able to expel Miramon 
from the capital. In the opinion of the President, it had now 
become the imperative duty of Congress to act without further 
delay, and to enforce redress from the Government of Miramon 
for the wrongs it had committed in violation of the faith of 
treaties against citizens of the United States. 

Toward no other Government would we have manifested so 
long and so patient a forbearance. This arose from our warm 
sympathies for a neighboring Republic. The territory under 


the sway of Miramon around the capital was not accessible to 
our forces without passing through the States under the juris- 
diction of the Constitutional Government. But this from the 
beginning had always manifested the warmest desire to cultivate 
the most friendly relations with our country. No doubt was 
therefore entertained that it would cheerfully grant us the right of 
passage. Moreover, it well knew that the expulsion of Miramon 
would result in the triumph of the Constitutional Government 
and its establishment over the whole territory of Mexico. 
What was, also, deemed of great importance by the President, 
this would remove from us the danger of a foreign war in sup- 
port of the Monroe doctrine against any European nation which 
might be tempted, by the distracted condition of the Republic, 
to interfere forcibly in its internal affairs under the pretext of 
restoring peace and order. 

Such is the outline of the President's policy. Had it been 
sanctioned by Congress, it is beyond question that we should 
not at this day witness the transformation of the Republic into 
a monarchy. 

Accordingly, in his message to Congress of the 19th of 
December, 1859, he says : " We may in vain apply to the Con- 
stitutional Government at Yera Cruz, although it is well dis- 
posed to do us justice, for adequate redress. Whilst its 
authority is acknowledged in all the important ports and 
throughout the sea-coasts of the Republic, its power does not 
extend to the city of Mexico and the States in its vicinity, 
where nearly all the recent outrages have been committed on 
American citizens. We must penetrate into the interior before 
we can reach the offenders, and this can only be done by pass- 
ing through the territory in the occupation of the Constitu- 
tional Government. The most acceptable and least difficult 
mode of accomplishing the object will be to act in concert with 
that Government. Their consent and their aid might, I 
believe, be obtained ; but if 'not, our obligation to protect our 
own citizens in their just rights secured by treaty would not be 
the less imperative. For these reasons I recommend to Con- 
gress to pass a law authorizing the President, under such con- 
ditions as they may deem expedient, to employ a sufficient 

274 mr. Buchanan's ADMnnsniATioN 

military force to enter Mexico for the purpose of obtaining 
indemnity for the past and security for the future. I purposely 
refrain from any suggestion as to whether this force shall con- 
sist of regular troops or volunteers, or both. This question 
may be most appropriately left to the decision of Congress. 
I would merely observe that, should volunteers be selected, 
such a force could be easily raised in this country among those 
who sympathize with the sufferings of our unfortunate fellow- 
citizens in Mexico, and with the unhappy condition of that 
Republic. Such an accession to the forces of the Constitutional 
Government would enable it soon to reach the city of Mexico, 
and extend its power over the whole Republic. In that event, 
there is no reason to doubt that the just claims of our citizens 
would be satisfied, and adequate redress obtained for the inju- 
ries inflicted upon them. The Constitutional Government have 
ever evinced a strong desire to do justice, and this might be 
secured in advance by a preliminary treaty. 

" It may be said that these measures will, at least indirectly, 
be inconsistent with our wise and settled policy not to interfere 
in the domestic concerns of foreign nations. But does not the 
present case fairly constitute an exception? An adjoining 
republic is in a state of anarchy and confusion from which she 
has proved wholly unable to extricate herself. She is entirely 
destitute of the power to maintain peace upon her borders, or to 
prevent the incursions of banditti into our territory. In her 
fate and in her fortune — in her power to establish and main- 
tain a settled government — we have a far deeper interest, 
socially, commercially, and politically, than any other nation. 
She is now a wreck upon the ocean, drifting about as she is 
impelled by different factions. As a good neighbor, shall we 
not extend to her a helping hand to save her ? If we do not, it 
would not be surprising should some other nation undertake the 
task, and thus force us to interfere at last, under circumstances 
of increased difficulty, for the maintenance of our established 

These recommendations of the President were wholly disre 
garded by Congress during the session of 1859-1860. Indeed, 
they were not even noticed in any of its proceedings. The 


members of both parties were too exclusively occupied in dis- 
cussing the slavery question, and in giving their attention to the 
approaching Presidential election, to devote any portion of their 
time to the important Mexican question. 

The President again brought the subject before Congress in 
his next annual message of December, 1860; but with no 
better effect. In recurring to his recommendations at the pre- 
vious session for the employment of a military force, and the 
consequences which had already resulted and would afterwards 
follow from the neglect with which it had been treated, he 
observes : " No other alternative was left, except the entire 
abandonment of our fellow-citizens who had gone to Mexico 
under the faith of treaties, to the systematic injustice, cruelty, 
and oppression of Miramon's Government. Besides, it is almost 
certain that the simple authority to employ this force would of 
itself have accomplished all our objects, without striking a sin- 
gle blow. The Constitutional Government would, then, ere this 
have been established at the city of Mexico, and would have 
been ready and witting, to the extent of its ability, to do us 

" In addition , and I deem this a most important consider- 
ation, European Governments would have been deprived of all 
pretext to interfere in the territorial and domestic concerns 
of Mexico. We should thus have heen relieved from the obliga- 
tion of resisting, even by force, should this become necessary, 
any attempt by these Governments to deprive our neighboring 
Republic of portions of her territory, a duty from which we 
could not shrink without abandoning the traditional and 
established policy of the American people " 

He adds : " I am happy to observe that, firmly relying upon 
the justice and good faith of these Governments, there is no 
present danger that such a contingency will happen." 

This was inserted in the message, because Mr. McLane at 
the time had received informal though only verbal assurances 
to this effect in his intercourse with European diplomatists in 
Mexico. And indeed there was no danger of foreign interfer- 
ence so long as the question of a military expedition to Mexico 
had not been decided by Congress. 

276 mr. Buchanan's administration 

The President did not apprehend interference in Mexico 
from any European sovereign except the Emperor of the 
French. It was his known policy to seek new colonies for 
France ; and his minister exercised great influence over Mira- 
mon. Besides, he had previously directed his attention in a 
special manner to Central America. The President, therefore, 
watched his proceedings with constant vigilance, under the 
conviction that should he attempt to colonize the whole or any 
portion of Mexico, this would almost necessarily involve the 
United States in a war with France in vindication of the Mon- 
roe doctrine. 


The allied powers of Europe had triumphed over Napoleon, 
and had restored the elder branch of the Bourbons, in the per- 
son of Louis XVIII., to the throne of France. Emboldened 
by this success, Russia, Austria, and Prussia, in 1815, formed 
the Holy Alliance. To this France, and nearly all the other 
continental powers, soon afterwards acceded. Great Britain, 
however, stood aloof and refused to become a party to it. The 
object of the allies was to abolish liberal Governments on the 
continent of Europe, and to maintain the divine right of 
sovereigns to .rule according to their own discretion — in short, 
to roll back the tide of progress toward free institutions, and to 
restore the old despotisms as they had existed before the French 
Revolution. Accordingly France was deputed to destroy, by 
force of arms, the liberal Government of the Cortes in Spain, 
and to restore the implacable and bigoted Ferdinand YII. to 
absolute power. In 1823 a French army, commanded by the 
Duke d'Angouleme, invaded Spain, and in a single campaign 
accomplished these objects. 

In the year before the date of this expedition, the Govern- 
ment of the United* States had formally acknowledged the in- 
dependence of the different southern Republics, - formerly Span- 
ish colonies ; and %n appropriation of one hundred thousand 
dollars had been made (May 4, 1822) * by Congress to defray 

* 3 United States Statutes, 678. 


the expense of missions to these " independent nations on the 
American continent." 

Whilst the French invasion was in successful progress, the 
British Government became satisfied that the allies, after crush- 
ing the Spanish liberals, intended to employ their arms in assist- 
ing Ferdinand VII. to resubjugate what they termed his rebel- 
lious colonies on this side of the Atlantic. To such an enter- 
prise Great Britain was strenuously opposed, and she resolved 
to resist it. If successful, this would prove to be a severe blow 
to her trade in that quarter of the world — an interest to which 
she has ever been sensitively alive. 

To avert the impending danger Mr. Canning, then the 
British Minister for Foreign Affairs, in August, 1823, proposed 
to Mr. Rush, the American Minister in London, that the two 
Governments should immediately unite in publishing " a joint 
declaration before Europe," manifesting their opposition to the 
policy and purposes of the alliance in regard to this continent. 
This expressed the opinion that the recovery of the colonies by 
Spain was hopeless ; that * their recognition as independent 
States was one of time and circumstances ; that the two powers 
were not disposed, however, to interpose obstacles in the way to 
any arrangements by amicable negotiations between the colonies 
and Spain ; but that whilst they aimed at the acquisition of no 
portion of these colonies for themselves, they would not see 
the transfer of any of them to a third power with indifference. 
Mr. Canning also observed that in his opinion such a joint dec- 
laration by Great Britain and the United States would alone 
prove sufficient to prevent the allies from any forcible inter- 
ference against the former Spanish colonies. For these reasons 
he earnestly urged Mr. Rush to become a party to it on behalf 
of his Government. Although Mr. Rush had no direct instruc- 
tions to warrant him in such an act, and this he had communi- 
cated to Mr. Canning, yet he wisely agreed to assume the re- 
sponsibility, but upon one express condition. This was, that the 
British Government should first acknowledge the independence 
of the new American Republics, as the United States had al- 
ready done. Mr. Canning, though resolved on defeating the 
projects of the alliance against these Republics, was not pre- 

278 me. Buchanan's administeation 

pared at the time to take this decisive step, and therefore the 
joint declaration was never made. 

Mr. Rush, in his despatch of September 19, 1823, to Mr. John 
Quincy Adams, then Secretary of State,* communicated to him 
a lucid statement of these negotiations, with explanatory docu- 
ments. After these had been considered by President Monroe, 
he sent them, with his own views on the subject, to Mr. Jeffer- 
son, and asked his advice as to the course which ought to be 
pursued by the Government to ward off the threatened danger. 

Mr. Jefferson's answer is dated at Monticello, on the 24th 
October, 1823. It is earnest, enthusiastic, and eloquent, 
displaying in old age the statesmanlike sagacity and ardent 
patriotism of the author of the Declaration of Independence. 
It foreshadows and recommends the " Monroe Doctrine " to the 
fullest extent. From its importance we quote it entire from 
Randall's Life of Jefferson, vol. iii., p. 491. Mr. Jefferson says : 
" The question presented by the letters you have sent me is the 
most momentous which has ever been offered to my contem- 
plation since that of independence. That made us a nation ; 
this sets our compass and points the course which we are to 
steer through the ocean of time opening on us; and never 
could we embark on it under circumstances more auspicious. 
Our first and fundamental maxim should be, never to entangle 
ourselves in the broils of Europe. Our second, never to suffer 
Europe to intermeddle with cis-Atlantic affairs. America, 
North and South, has a set of interests distinct from those of 
Europe, and peculiarly her own. She should, therefore, have a 
system of her own, separate and apart from that of Europe. 
While the last is laboring to become the domicile of despotism, 
our endeavor should surely be to make our hemisphere that of 
freedom. One nation, most of all, could disturb us in this 
pursuit ; she now offers to lead, aid, and accompany us in it. 
By acceding to her proposition, we detach her from the band 
of despots, bring her mighty weight into the scale of free gov- 
ernment, and emancipate a continent at one stroke, which might 
otherwise linger long in doubt and difficulty. Great Britain is 
the nation which can do us the most harm of any one, or all on 

* Rush's "Residence at the Court of London," p. 429. 


earth ; and with her on our side, we need not fear the whole 
world. With her, then, we should most sedulously cherish a 
cordial friendship ; and nothing would tend more to knit our 
affections than to be fighting once more, side by side, in the 
same cause. Not that I would purchase even her amity at the 
price of taking part in her wars. But the war in which the 
present proposition might engage us, should that be its conse- 
quence, is not her war, but ours. Its object is to introduce and 
establish the American system of keeping out of our land all 
foreign powers, of never permitting those of Europe to inter- 
meddle with the affairs of our nations. It is to maintain our 
own principle, not to depart from it ; and if, to facilitate this, 
we can effect a division in the body of the European powers, 
and draw over to our side its most powerful member, surely 
we should do it. But I am clearly of Mr. Canning's opinion, 
that it will prevent instead of provoking war. With Greati 
Britain withdrawn from their scale and shifted into that of our 
two continents, all Europe combined would not undertake such 
a war. For how would they propose to get at either enemy 
without superior fleets? Nor is the occasion to be slighted 
which this proposition offers, of declaring our protest against 
the atrocious violations of the rights of nations, by the inter- 
ference of any one in the internal affairs of another, so flagi- 
tiously begun by Bonaparte, and now continued by the equally 
lawless alliance calling itself holy. 

" But we have first to ask ourselves a question : Do we wish 
to acquire to our own confederacy any one or more of the 
Spanish provinces ? I candidly confess that I have ever looked 
on Cuba as the most interesting addition which could ever be 
made to our system of States. The control which, with Florida 
point, this island would give us over the G-ulf of Mexico, and 
the countries and isthmus bordering on it, as well as all those 
whose waters flow into it, would fill up the measure of our 
political well-being. Yet as I am sensible that this can never 
be obtained, even with her own consent, but by war ; and its 
independence, which is our second interest (and especially its 
independence of England), can be secured without it, I have no 
hesitation in abandoning my first wish to future chances, and 

280 me. Buchanan's administkation 

accepting its independence, with peace and the friendship of 
England, rather than its association at the expense of war and 
her enmity. 

" I could honestly, therefore, join in the declaration proposed, 
that we aim not at the acquisition of any of those possessions, that 
we will not stand in the way of any amicable arrangement be- 
tween them and the mother country ; but that we will oppose, 
with all our means, the forcible interposition of any other 
power, as auxiliary, stipendiary, or under any other form or 
pretext, and most especially their transfer to any power by 
conquest, cession, or acquisition in any other way. I should 
think it, therefore, advisable that the Executive should encour- 
age the British Government to a continuance in the dispositions 
expressed in these letters, by an assurance of his concurrence 
with them as far as his authority goes ; and that, as it may lead 
•to war, the declaration of which requires an act of Congress, 
the case shall be laid before them for consideration, at their first 
meeting, and under the reasonable aspect in which it is seen by 

iC I have been so long weaned from political subjects, and have 
so long ceased to take any interest in them, that I am sensible I 
am not qualified to offer opinions on them worthy of any at- 
tention. But the question now proposed involves consequences 
so lasting, and effects so decisive of our future destinies, as to 
rekindle all the interest I have heretofore felt on such occasions, 
and to induce me to the hazard of opinions which will prove 
only my wish to contribute still my mite toward any thing 
which may be useful to our country. And praying you to 
accept it at only what it is worth, I add the assurance of my 
constant and affectionate friendship and respect." 

President Monroe, thus fortified by the support of Mr. 
Jefferson, proceeded to announce, in his seventh annual message 
to Congress, of December 2, 1823, the now celebrated " Monroe 
Doctrine." This is summed up in his assertion, " as a principle 
in which the rights and interests of the United States are in- 
volved, that the American continents, by the free and inde- 
pendent condition they have assumed and maintained,' are 


henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future coloniza- 
tion by any European powers." 

The word u henceforth " is employed because Great Britain 
and France, at the date of the message, not to speak of the Por- 
tuguese Empire of Brazil, possessed colonies on this continent, 
and these are exempted from its terms. It applies to the future 
and not to the past. This is more specifically stated afterwards 
in the declaration, that " with the existing colonies or depend- 
encies of any European power we have not interfered and shall 
not interfere." 

The reader has perceived that the recommendations of Mr. 
Jefferson went beyond the " joint declaration " which had been 
proposed by Mr. Canning. This was confined to the Spanish 
American colonies, but the Monroe doctrine extends the protec- 
tion of the United States to every other portion of the conti- 

In a subsequent portion of the message Mr. Monroe pro- 
ceeds to discuss and condemn, in a clear and able manner, the 
projects of the alliance against the southern Republics, and to 
warn them of the consequences. In this, however, he never 
loses sight of the more comprehensive doctrine he had first an- 
nounced against European colonization in any portion of Ameri- 
ca, employing such language as the following : " We owe it there- 
fore to candor, and to the amicable relations existing between 
the United States and those [European] powers, to declare that 
we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their 
system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our 
peace and safety." And again, after stating that our established 
policy was not to interfere in the internal concerns of any Eu- 
ropean power, to consider the Government de facto as the le- 
gitimate Government, and to cultivate friendly relations with 
it, he says : " But in regard to these continents circumstances 
are eminently and conspicuously different. It is impossible 
that the allied powers should extend their political system to any 
portion of either continent without endangering our peace and 
happiness, nor can any one believe that our southern brethren, 
if left to themselves, would adopt it of their own accord. It is 

282 me. Buchanan's administration 

equally impossibly therefore, that we should behold such inter- 
position, in any form, with indifference." 

Such is the Monroe doctrine. It is in opposition to fu- 
ture European colonization on any part of the American con- 
tinent ; it is in opposition to the introduction of European des- 
potic or monarchical institutions in any part of the American 
continent ; and is in opposition to any attempt of European sov- 
ereigns to subjugate the North American Republic of Mexico, 
or any of the South American Republics. In regard to those 
Republics, he emphatically says : " But with the Governments 
who have declared their independence and maintained it, and 
whose independence we have, on great consideration and on 
just principles, acknowleged we could not view any interposi- 
tion for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any 
other manner their destiny, by any European power, in any 
other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposi- 
tion toward the United States." It was eminently wise that 
the United States, the most ancient and by far the most pow- 
erful Republic on this continent, should have interposed such a 
shield to defend their weaker sisters against the assaults of Eu- 
ropean despotism. 

" When President Monroe's message arrived in London [we 
are informed by Mr. Rush],* the whole document excited great 
attention. It was upon all tongues; the press was full of it; 
the Spanish American deputies were overjoyed ; Spanish Amer- 
ican securities rose in the stock market, and the safety of the 
new States from all European coercion was considered as no 
longer doubtful." The allies soon after abandoned their hostile 
purposes against the new Republics, and their independence was 

That portion of the message for the protection of the new 
Republics, being in accordance with the avowed policy of Great 
Britain, was received with favor by the British Government ; 
but not so the portion of it against future European coloniza- 
tion. This encountered their decided opposition.f " The Mon- 
roe doctrine," nevertheless, soon became a canon of political 
faith for the American people, and they placed it side by side 

* Rush, p. 458. + Ibid., pp. 458, 471. 


with their hostility to the impressment of American seamen, 

and to the search of American vessels on the high seas. 

The authors and friends of the Monroe doctrine entertained 
no doubt of its wisdom and policy. "With the established inde- 
pendence of the Kepublic of Mexico and the Eepnblics south 
of it, there arose two distinct and opposing forms of government 
on the opposite sides of the Atlantic ; the one republican, the 
other monarchical ; the one devoted to free institutions, the 
other to despotic rule. The nations of Europe having deter- 
mined to resist any change in their monarchical forms, it was 
but just and reasonable that those of America in self-protec- 
tion should equally resist all attempts from the other side 
of the Atlantic to change their free institutions. To repeat 
the language of Mr. Jefferson, " America, North and South, 
has a set of interests distinct from those of Europe, and pe- 
culiarly her own; she should, therefore, have a system of 
her own, separate and apart from that of Europe. While 
the last is laboring to become the domicile of despotism, our 
endeavor should surely be to make our hemisphere that of 
freedom." Governments so radically opposed in principle could 
not be intermingled in adjoining territories without dangerous 
disputes and collisions. The contrast between them would be a 
perennial source of jealousy. Each would necessarily endeavor 
to propagate its own principles among the neighboring people 
of the other. In the interests of peace and friendship between 
the European monarchies and the American Republics, a wise 
foresight would forbid the former from establishing colonies 
within the territories or in the vicinity of the latter. Should 
the United States interpose forcibly to establish republican in- 
stitutions on any part of the European continent, it is certain 
that all its sovereigns would combine to resist such an inter- 
ference as dangerous to their monarchical system. Shall we, 
then, abandoning the Monroe doctrine, patiently suffer any of 
these sovereigns to extend their dominion, equally dangerous to 
our free forms of government, on this side of the Atlantic ? 
No human sagacity could, twenty years ago, have foreseen the 
day when a foreign potentate, not even confining himself to the 
planting of colonies on American soil, should by invasion and 

284 me. Buchanan's administration 

force of arms convert the whole Kepublic of Mexico into a Eu- 
ropean monarchy. The idea, if suggested at that time, would 
have been treated as absurd, more especially when we reflect 
that this is the richest and most populous of the Eepublics which 
more than fifty years ago had been saved from European dom- 
ination by our Government, and that its territories extend for a 
thousand miles along our own frontiers. 

During the administration of President Polk, it became ne- 
cessary that he should reaffirm the Monroe doctrine, in view of 
the designs of Great Britain to establish a protectorate over the 
Mosquito coast in the Republics of Nicaragua and Honduras. 
This he did, in decided terms, in his first annual message to 
Congress (2d December, 1845.) * 

Great Britain, as we have already seen, through the inter- 
position of the Government of the United States, eventually 
withdrew from the Mosquito protectorate, as well as from the 
colony of the Bay Islands, which she had afterwards established 
on the coast of Honduras. At the close of Mr. Buchanan's 
administration no European colony existed on the American 
continent, except such as had been established before the Mon- 
roe doctrine was announced, or had been formed out of territory 
then belonging to a European power. 

The President, having failed in obtaining authority from 
Congress to employ a military force in Mexico, as a last resort 
adopted the policy of concluding a treaty with the Constitu- 
tional Government. By this means he thought something 
might be accomplished, both to satisfy ^.the long deferred claims 
of American citizens, and to prevent foreign interference with 
the internal government of Mexico. Accordingly Mr. McLane, 
on the 14th day of December, 1859, signed a " Treaty of Tran- 
sits and Commerce." with the Mexican Republic, and also a, 
" Convention to enforce treaty stipulations, and to maintain 
order and security in the Territory of the Eepublics of Mexico 
and the United States." These treaties secured peculiar and 
highly valuable advantages to our trade and commerce, espe- 
cially in articles the production of our agriculture and manu- 

* 3 Statesman's Manual, p. 1458. 


factures. They also guaranteed to us the secure possession and 
enjoyment of the Tehuantepec route, and of several other 
transit routes for our commerce, free from duty, across the ter- 
ritories of the Republic, on its way to California, and our other 
possessions on the Northwest coast, as well as to the independ- 
ent Republics on the Pacific and to Eastern Asia. 

In consideration of these advantages, " and in compensation 
for the revenue surrendered by Mexico on the goods and mer- 
chandise transported free of duty through the territory of that 
Republic, the Government of the United States agreed to pay 
to the Government of Mexico the sum of four millions of dol- 
lars." Of this sum two millions were to be paid immediately 
to Mexico, and the remaining two millions were to be retained 
by our Government "for the payment of the claims of citizens 
of the United States against the Government of the Republic 
of Mexico for injuries already inflicted, and which may be 
proven to be just according to the law and usage of nations and 
the principles of equity." It was believed that these stipula- 
tions, whilst providing two millions toward the payment of the 
claims of our citizens, would enable President. Juarez with 
the remaining two millions to expel the usurping Government 
of Miramon from the capital, and place the Constitutional 
Government in possession of the whole territory of the Repub- 
lic. This, we need not say, would have greatly promoted the 
interests of the United States. Besides, what was vastly im- 
portant, these treaties, by vesting in the United States territorial 
and commercial rights which we would be bound to defend, 
might for this reason have prevented any European Government 
from attempting to acquire dominion over the territories of Mex- 
ico, and thus the Monroe doctrine would probably have re- 
mained inviolate. "With this view Mr. McLane was seriously 
impressed. In his despatch of December 14th, 1859, to the 
Secretary of State, communicating the treaties, he expresses the 
apprehension that should they not be ratified, further anarchy 
would prevail in Mexico until it should be terminated by direct 
interference from some other quarter. 

On the 4th January, 1860, the President submitted to the 
Senate the treaty and the convention with a view to their ratifi- 

286 me. Buchanan's administration 

cation, together with the despatch of Mr. McLane. These, on 
the same day, were referred to the Committee on Foreign Rela- 
tions. Whether any or what other proceedings were had in 
relation to them we are unable to state, the injunction of secresy 
having never been removed by the Senate. Mr. McLane, who 
was then in Washington, had a conference with the committee, 
and received the impression that comparative unanimity existed 
in favor of the principal provisions of the treaty ; but in regard 
to the convention the contingency of its possible abuse was 
referred to as constituting an objection to its ratification. Cer- 
tain it is that neither the one nor the other was ever approved 
by the Senate, and consequently both became a dead letter.* 
The Republic of Mexico was thus left to its fate, and has since 
become an empire under the dominion of a scion of the House 
of Hapsburg, protected by the Emperor of the French. The 
righteous claims of American citizens have therefore been indef- 
initely postponed. 


• ♦ * 


Views suggested by the imminent danger {October 29, 1860) of a 
disruption of the Union by the Secession of one or more of the 
Southern States. 

To save time the right of secession may be conceded, and instantly- 
balanced by the correlative right, on the part of the Federal Govern- 
ment, against an interior State or States, to reestablish by force, if ne- 
cessary, its former continuity of territory — Paleifs Moral and Political 
Philosophy, last chapter. 

But break this glorious Union by whatever line or lines that politi- 
cal madness may contrive, and there would be no hope of reuniting 
tne fragments except by the laceration and despotism of the sword. 
To effect such result the intestine wars of our Mexican neighbors 
would, in comparison with ours, sink into mere child's play. 

A smaller evil would be to allow the fragments of the great Re- 
public to form themselves into new Confederacies, probably four. 

All the lines of demarcation between the new Unions cannot be 
accurately drawn in advance, but many of them approximately may. 
Thus, looking to natural boundaries and commercial affinities, some 
of the following frontiers, after many waverings and conflicts, might 
perhaps become acknowledged and fixed : 

1. The Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay to the Atlantic. 
2. From Maryland, along the crest of the Alleghany (perhaps the 


Blue Ridge) range of mountains, to some point on the coast of Florida. 
3. The line from say the head of the Potomac to the west or north- 
west, which it will be most difficult to settle. 4. The crest of the 
Rocky Mountains. 

The Southeast Confederacy would, in all human probability, in 
less than five years after the rupture, find itself bounded by the first 
and second lines indicated above, the Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mex- 
ico, with its capital at say Columbia, South Carolina. The country 
between the second, third, and fourth of those lines would, beyond a 
doubt, in about the same time, constitute another Confederacy, with 
its capital at probably Alton or Quincy, Illinois. The boundaries of 
the Pacific Union are the most definite of all, and the remaining States 
would constitute the Northeast Confederacy, with its capital at Albany. 

It, at the first thought, will be considered strange that seven slave- 
holding States and parts of Virginia and Florida should be placed 
(above) in a new Confederacy with Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, etc. But 
when the overwhelming weight of the great Northwest is taken in 
connection with the laws of trade, contiguity of territory, and the 
comparative indifference to free soil doctrines on the part of Western 
Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri, it is evident that but 
little if any coercion, beyond moral force, would be needed to embrace 
them ; and I have omitted the temptation of the unwasted public lands 
which would fall entire to this Confederacy — an apanage (well hus- 
banded) sufficient for many generations. As to Missouri, Arkansas, 
and Mississippi, they would not stand out a month. Louisiana would 
coalesce without much solicitation, and Alabama, with West Florida, 
would be conquered the first winter from the absolute need of Pensa- 
cola for a naval depot. 

If I might presume to address the South, and particularly dear 
Virginia — being " native here and to the manor born" — I would af- 
fectionately ask, Will not your slaves be less secure and their labor less 
profitable under the new order of things than under the old ? Could 
you employ profitably two hundred slaves in all Nebraska, or five 
hundred in all New Mexico ? The right, then, to take them thither 
would be a barren right. And is it not wise to 

" Rather bear the ills we have 
Than fly to others that we know not of?" 

The Declaration of Independence proclaims and consecrates the 
same maxim : " Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long 
established should not be changed for light and transient causes." 


And Paley, too, lays down as a fundamental maxim of statesmanship, 
' ' never to pursue national honor as distinct from national interest ; " 
but adds : " This rule acknowledges that it is often necessary to assert 
the honor of a nation for the sake of its interests." 

The excitement that threatens secession is caused by the near 
prospect of a Republican's election to the Presidency. From a sense 
of propriety, as a soldier, I have taken no part in the pending canvass, 
and, as always heretofore, mean to stay away from the polls. My 
sympathies, however, are with the Bell and Everett ticket. With Mr. 
Lincoln I have had no communication whatever, direct or indirect, 
and have no recollection of ever having seen his person ; but cannot 
believe any unconstitutional violence, or breach of law, is to be appre- 
hended from his administration of the Federal Government. 

From a knowledge of our Southern population it is my solemn 
conviction that there is some danger of an early act of rashness pre- 
liminary to secession, viz., the seizure of some or all of the following 
posts : Forts Jackson and St. Philip, in the Mississippi, below New 
Orleans, both without garrisons ; Fort Morgan, below Mobile, with- 
out a garrison ; Forts Pickens and McRee, Pensacola harbor, with an 
insufficient garrison for one ; Fort Pulaski, below Savannah, without 
a garrison ; Forts Moultrie and Sumter, Charleston harbor, the former 
with an insufficient garrison, and the latter without any ; and Fort 
Monroe, Hampton Roads, without a sufficient garrison. In my opinion 
all these works should be immediately so garrisoned as to make any 
attempt to take any one of them, by surprise or coup de main, ridicu- 

With the army faithful to its allegiance, and the navy probably 
equally so, and with a Federal Executive, for the next twelve months, 
of firmness and moderation, which the country has a right to expect 
— moderation being an element of power not less than firmness — there 
is good reason to hope that the danger of secession may be made to 
pass away without one conflict of arms, one execution, 6r one arrest 
for treason. 

In the mean time it is suggested that exports should remain as 
free as at present ; all duties, however, on imports, collected (outside 
of the cities*) as such receipts would be needed for the national debt, 
invalid pensions, &c, and only articles contraband of war be refused 

* In forts or on board ships-of-war. The great aim and object of this plan was to 
gain time — say eight or ten months — to await expected measures of conciliation on 
the part of the North, and the subsidence of angry feelings in the opposite quarter. 


admittance. But even this refusal would be unnecessary, as the fore- 
going views eschew the idea of invading a seceded State. 

"Winfield Scott. 

October 29t7i, 1860. 

Lieut.-General Scott's respects to the Secretary of War to say — 

That a copy of his " Views, &c." was despatched to the President 
yesterday, in great haste ; but the copy intended for the Secretary, 
better transcribed (herewith), was not in time for the mail. Gen- 
eral Scott would be happy if the latter could be substituted for the 

It will be seen that the " Views " only apply to a case of secession 
that makes a gap in the present Union. The falling off (say) of 
Texas, or of all the Atlantic States, from the Potomac south, was not 
within the scope of General Scott's provisional remedies. 

It is his opinion that instructions should be given, at once, to the 
commanders of the Barancas, Forts Moultrie and Monroe, to be on 
their guard against surprises and coups de main. As to regular 
approaches nothing can be said or done, at this time, without vol- 

There is one (regular) company at Boston, one here (at the 
Narrows), one at Pittsburg, one at Augusta, Ga., and one at Baton 
Rouge — in all five companies only, within reach, to garrison or reen- 
force the forts mentioned in the " Views." 

General Scott is all solicitude for the safety of the Union. He is, 
however, not without hope that all dangers and difficulties will pass 
away without leaving a scar or painful recollection behind. 
The Secretary's most obedient servant, 

"Winfield Scott. 

October %M\ 1860. 


THE 8th OF JANUARY, 1861. 

January 9, 1861. — Read and referred, with instructions, to a Select 
Committee of Jive, and ordered to be printed. 

To the Senate and Souse of Representatives : 

At the opening of your present session I called your attention to 
the dangers which threatened the existence of the Union. I expressed 
my opinion freely concerning the original causes of those dangers, and 
recommended such > measures as I believed would have the effect of 
tranquillizing the country and saving it from the peril in which it had 
been needlessly and most unfortunately involved. Those opinions and 
recommendations I do not propose now to repeat. My own convic- 
tions upon the whole subject remain unchanged. 

The fact that a great calamity was impending over the nation was 
even at that time acknowledged by every intelligent citizen. It had 
already made itself felt throughout the length and breadth of the land. 
The necessary consequences of the alarm thus produced were most 
deplorable. The imports fell off with a rapidity never known before, 
except in time of war, in the history of our foreign commerce ; the 
Treasury was unexpectedly left without the means which it had rea- 
sonably counted upon to meet the public engagements ; trade was 
paralyzed ; manufactures were stopped ; the best public securities 
suddenly sunk in the market ; every species of property depreciated 
more or less ; and thousands of poor men, who depended upon their 
daily labor for their daily bread, were turned out of employment. 

I deeply regret that I am not able to give you any information 
upon the state of the Union which is more satisfactory than what I was 
then obliged to communicate. On the contrary, matters are still worse 
at present than they then were. When Congress met, a strong hope 
pervaded the whole public mind that some amicable adjustment of the 
subject would speedily be made by the representatives of the States 
and of the people, which might restore peace between the conflicting 


sections of the country. That hope has been diminished by every hour 
of delay ; and as the prospect of a bloodless settlement fades away, 
the public distress becomes more and more aggravated. As evidence 
of this, it is only necessary to say that the treasury notes authorized 
by the act of 17th December last were advertised, according to the 
law, and that no responsible bidder offered to take any considerable 
sum at par at a lower rate of interest than twelve per cent. From 
these facts it appears that, in a government organized like ours, do- 
mestic strife, or even a well-grounded fear of civil hostilities, is more 
destructive to our public and private interests than the most formidable 
foreign war. 

In my annual message I expressed the conviction, which I have 
long deliberately held, and which recent reflection has only tended to 
deepen and confirm, that no State has a right by its own act to secede 
from the Union, or throw off its Federal obligations at pleasure. I 
also declared my opinion to be that, even if that right existed and 
should be exercised by any State of the confederacy, the executive de- 
partment of this government had no authority under the Constitution 
to recognize its validity by acknowledging the independence of such 
State. This left me no alternative, as the chief executive officer under 
the Constitution of the United States, but to collect the public revenues 
and to protect the public property so far as this might be practicable 
under existing laws. This is still my purpose. My province is to 
execute, and not to make the laws. It belongs to Congress, exclu- 
sively, to repeal, to modify, or to enlarge their provisions, to meet exi- 
gencies as they may occur. I possess no dispensing power. 

I certainly had no right to make aggressive war upon any State, 
and I am perfectly satisfied that the Constitution has wisely withheld 
that power even from Congress. But the right and the duty to use 
military force defensively against those who resist the Federal officers 
in the execution of their legal functions, and against those who assail 
the property of the Federal government, is clear and undeniable. 

But the dangerous and hostile attitude of the States toward each 
other has already far transcended and cast in the shade the ordinary 
executive duties already provided for by law, and has assumed such 
vast and alarming proportions as to place the subject entirely above 
and beyond executive control. The fact cannot be disguised that we 
are in the midst of a great revolution. In all its various bearings, 
therefore, I commend the question to Congress, as the only human 
tribunal, under Providence, possessing the power to meet the existing 


emergency. To them, exclusively, belongs the power to declare war, 
or to authorize the employment of military force in all cases contem- 
plated by the Constitution ; and they alone possess the power to re- 
move grievances which might lead to war, and to secure peace and 
union to this distracted country. On them, and on them alone, rests 
the responsibility. 

The Union is a sacred trust left by our revolutionary fathers to 
their descendants ; and never did any other people inherit so rich a 
legacy. It has rendered us prosperous in peace and triumphant in 
war. The National flag has floated in glory over every sea. Under 
its shadow American citizens have found protection and respect in all 
lands beneath the sun. If we descend to considerations of purely 
material interest, when, in the history of all time, has a confederacy 
been bound together by such strong ties of mutual interest ? Each 
portion of it is dependent on all, and all upon each portion, for pros- 
perity and domestic security. Free trade throughout the whole supplies 
the wants of one portion from the productions of another, and scatters 
wealth everywhere. The great planting and farming States require 
the aid of the commercial and navigating States to send their produc- 
tions to domestic and foreign markets, and to furnish the naval power 
to render their transportation secure against all hostile attacks. 

Should the Union perish in the midst of the present excitement, 
we have already had a sad foretaste of the universal suffering which 
would result from its destruction. The calamity would be severe in 
every portion of the Union, and would be quite as great, to say the 
least, in the Southern as in the Northern States. The greatest aggra- 
vation of the evil, and that which would place us in the most unfavor- 
able light both before the world and posterity, is, as I am firmly con- 
vinced, that the secession movement has been chiefly based upon a 
misapprehension at the South of the sentiments of the majority in 
several of the Northern States. Let the question be transferred from 
political assemblies to the ballot-box, and the people themselves would 
speedily redress the serious grievances which the South have suffered. 
But, in Heaven's name, let the trial be made before we plunge into 
armed conflict upon the mere assumption that there is no other alter- 
native. Time is a great conservative power. Let us pause at this 
momentous point and afford the people, both North and South, an 
opportunity for reflection. Would that South Carolina had been con- 
vinced of this truth before her precipitate action ! I, therefore, appeal 
through you to the people of the country to declare in their might that 


the Union must and shall be preserved by all constitutional means. I 
most earnestly recommend that you devote yourselves exclusively to 
the question how this can be accomplished in peace. All other 
questions, when compared with this, sink into insignificance. The 
present is ho time for palliatives ; action, prompt action, is required. 
A delay in Congress to prescribe or to recommend a distinct and 
practical proposition for conciliation may drive us to a point from 
which it will be almost impossible to recede. 

A common ground on which conciliation and harmony can be pro- 
duced is surely not unattainable. The proposition to compromise by 
letting the North have exclusive control of the territory above a 
certain line, and to give Southern institutions protection below that 
line, ought to receive universal approbation. In itself, indeed, it may 
not be entirely satisfactory ; but when the alternative is between a 
reasonable concession on both sides and a destruction of the Union, it 
is an imputation upon the patriotism of Congress to assert that its 
members will hesitate for a moment. 

Even now the danger is upon us. In several of the States which 
have not yet seceded, the forts, arsenals, and magazines of the United 
States have been seized. This is by far the most serious step which has 
been taken since the commencement of the troubles. This public 
property has long been left without garrisons and troops for its protec- 
tion, because no person doubted its security under the flag of the 
country in any State of the Union. Besides, our small army has 
scarcely been sufficient to guard our remote frontiers against Indian 
incursions. The seizure of this property, from all appearances, has 
been purely aggressive, and not in resistance to any attempt to coerce a 
State or States to remain in the Union. 

At the beginning of these unhappy troubles I determined that no 
act of mine should increase the excitement in either section of the 
country. If the political conflict were to end in a civil war, it was my 
determined purpose not to commence it, nor even to furnish an excuse 
for it by an act of this government. My opinion remains unchanged, 
that justice as well as sound policy requires us still to seek a peaceful 
solution of the questions at issue between the North and the South. 
Entertaining this conviction, I refrained even .from sending reinforce- 
ments to Major Anderson, who commanded the forts in Charleston 
harbor, until an absolute necessity for doing so should make itself ap- 
parent, lest it might unjustly be regarded as a menace of military coer- 
cion, and thus furnish, if not a provocation, a pretext for an outbreak on 


the part of South Carolina. No necessity for these reinforcements 
seemed to exist. I was assured by distinguished and upright gentlemen 
of South Carolina* that no attack upon Major Anderson was intended, 
but that, on the contrary, it was the desire of the State authorities, as 
much as it was my own, to avoid the fatal consequences which must 
eventually follow a military collision. 

And here I deem it proper to submit, for your information, copies 
of a communication, dated December 28, I860,. addressed to me by 
R. W. Barnwell, J. H. Adams, and J. L. Orr, " Commissioners" from 
South Carolina, with the accompanying documents, and copies of my 
answer thereto, dated December 31. 

In farther explanation of Major Anderson's removal from Fort 
Moultrie to Fort Sumter, it is proper to state that, after my answer to 
the South Carolina " Commissioners," the War Department received 
a letter from that gallant officer, dated December 27, 1860, the day 
after this movement, from which the following is an extract : 

" I will add, as my opinion, that many things convinced me that 
the authorities of the State designed to proceed to a hostile act" [evi- 
dently referring to the orders dated December 11, of the late Secretary 
of War]. " Under this impression, I could not hesitate that it was 
my solemn duty to move my command from a fort which we could 
not probably have held longer than forty-eight or sixty hours to this 
one, where my power of resistance is increased to a very great degree." 
It will be recollected that the concluding part of these orders was in 
the following terms : " The smallness of your force will not permit 
you, perhaps, to occupy more than one of the three forts ; but an at- 
tack on, or attempt to take possession of either one of them, will be 
regarded as an act of hostility, and you may then put your command 
into either of them which you may deem most proper to increase its 
power of resistance. You are also authorized to take similar defen- 
sive steps whenever you have tangible evidence of a design to proceed 
to a hostile act." 

It is said that serious apprehensions are, to some extent, entertained, 
in which I do not share, that the peace of this District may be dis- 
turbed before the 4th of March next. In any event, it will be my 
duty to preserve it, and this duty shall be performed. 

In conclusion, it may be permitted to me to remark that I have 
often warned my countrymen of the dangers which now surround us. 

* Messrs McQueen, Miles, Bonham, Boyce, and Keitt, members of the House of 
Representatives from South Carolina, on the 8th of December, 1860. 


This may be the last time I shall refer to the subject officially. I feel 
that my duty has beeu faithfully, though it may be imperfectly, per- 
formed ; and whatever the result may be, I shall carry to my grave 
the consciousness that I at least meant well for my country. 

James Buchanan. 

Washington City, Jan. 8, 1861. 


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What I Saw on the West Coast of South 

and North America, and at the Hawaiian Islands. By H. Willis Baxley, M.D. 
With numerous Illustrations. 8vo. 632 pp. Cloth. Price, $4.00. 

" With great power of observation, much information, a rapid and graphic style, the author 
presents a vivid and instructive picture. He is free in his strictures, sweeping in his judgments, 
but his facts are unquestionable, and his motives and his standard of judgment just." — Albany 

"His work will be found to contain a greal deal of valuable information, many suggestive 
reflections, and much graphic and interesting descriptions." — Portland Express. 

The Conversion of the Roman Empire. 

The Boyle Lectures for the year 1864. Delivered at the Chapel Royal, White- 
hall, by Charles Merivale, B.D., Rector of Lawford, Chaplain to the Speaker 
of the House of Commons, author of " A History of the Romans under the Em- 
pire." 8vo. 267 pp. Price, $2.00. 

"No man living is better qualified to discuss the subject of this volume, and he has done it with 
marked ability. He has done it, moreover, in the interest of Christian truth, and manifests thorough 
appreciation of the spiritual nature and elements of Christianity."— Evangelist. 

" The author is admirably qualified from his historical studies to connect theology with facts. 
The subject-is a great one, and it is treated with candor, vigor, and abundant command of materials 
to bring out its salient points." — Boston Transcript. 

Speeches and Occasional Addresses. 

By John A. DiX; 2 vols., 8vo. With portrait. Cloth. Price, $7.fl0. 

"This collection is designed chiefly to make those who are to come after us acquainted with the 
part I have borne in the national movement during a quarter of a century of extraordinary activity 
and excitement:" — Extract from Dedication. 

" General Dix has done a good service to American statesmanship and literature by publishing 
in a collected form the fruits of his ripe experience and manly sagacity." — New York Tribune. 


Christian Ballads. By the Right Rev. 

A. Cleveland Coxe, D.D., Bishop of Western New York. Illustrated by John 
A. Hows. 1 vol., 8vo. 14 full page engravings, and nearly 60 head and tail 
pieces. Price, cloth extra, $6.00 ; mor. ant. or extra, $9.00 ; crushed levant 
mor., $10.00. 

" These ballads have gained for the author an enviable distinction ; this work stands almost with- 
out a rival."— Christian Times. 

" Not alone do they breathe a beautiful religious and Christianlike spirit, there is much real 
and true poetry in them."— Home Journal. 

Mount Vernon, and other Poems. By 

Harvey Rice. 12mo. Cloth, $1.25 ; half calf, extra, $3.00 ; full calf, extra, $4.00. 

" Fresh and original in style and in thought. * * * Will be read with much satisfaction."— 
Cleveland Leader. 

The Internal Revenue Laws. Act ap- 

proved June 30, 1864, as amended, and the Act amendatory thereof approved 
March 3, 1865. With copious marginal references, a complete Analytical In- 
dex, and Tables of Taxation. Compiled by Horace Dkesser. 8vo. Paper, 
60c. ; cloth, $1.00. 

11 An indispensable book for every citizen." 

"An accurate and certainly a very complete and convenient manual." — Congregationalist. 

The Classification of the Sciences. To 

which are added Reasons for Dissenting from the Philosophy of M. Comte. By 
Herbert Spencer, Author of " Illustrations of Universal Progress," " Educa- 
tion," " First Principles," "Essays: Moral, Political, and ^Esthetic," and the 
" Principles of Psychology." 12mo. Paper. Price, 25 cents. 

"In a brief, but clear manner, elaborates a plan of classification." — Hartford Courant. 
" One of the most original and deep thinkers of the age. * * * Will greatly assist all who de- 
sire to study Mental Philosophy." — Philadelphia Press. 

Lyrical Recreations. By Samuel Ward. 

Large 12mo. Cloth. Price, $2.00. 

" There is a wealth of beauty which discovers itself the more we linger over the book." — Jour- 
nal of Commerce. 

"Its pages bear abundant evidence of taste and culture." — Springfield Republican. 

Orlean Lamar, and Other Poems, by 

Sarah E. Knowles. 12mo. Cloth. Price, $1.25. 

"Not only lively and attractive with fancy, but it has the excellence of being pure, moral, and 
Christian. " — Religious Herald. 


Lyra Anglicana ; or, A Hymnal of Sacred 

Poetry. Selected from the best English writers, and arranged after the order of 
the Apostles' Creed. By the Rev. George T. Rider, M.A. 12mo. Cloth, 
extra, price, $2.00 ; morocco, or calf antique, price, $5.00. 

" As beautiful and valuable a collection of Sacred Poetry as has ever appeared." — St. Louis 

" Will be found very attractive from the warm devotional tone that pervades it." — New York 

" Much of the poetry is not found in American reprints." — Gospel Messenger. 

Lyra Americana ] or. Verses of Praise 

and Faith, from American Poets. Selected and arranged by the Rev. George 
T. Rider, M.A. 12mo. Cloth, extra price, $2,00 ; morocco or calf antique, 
price, $5.00. 

" They are collections of the most beautiful and touching poetic expressions of devotion."— The 

" The collection is purely American ; the lyrics are all full of devotion and praise. Unusual 
taste has been evinced in the selection of the poetry." — Troy Times. 

On Radiation. The "Rede" Lecture, 

delivered in the Senate House before the University of Cambridge, on Tuesday, 
May 16, 1865, by John Tyndall, F.R.S., Professor of Natural Philosophy in 
the Royal Institute and in the Royal School of Mines. Author of " Heat con- 
sidered as a Mode of Motion." 12mo. Cloth. Price 50 cents. 

Contributions to the Geology and the 

Physical Geography of Mexico, including a Geological and Topographical Map, 
with profiles of some of the principal mining districts. Together with a 
graphic description of an ascent of the volcano Popocatepetl. Edited by 
Baron F. W. Von Egloffstein. Large 8vo. Illustrated. Cloth. Price, $4. 

u The general interest excited on this continent as well as in Europe by late political events in 
Mexico, where a wide field for mining and land speculation is about to be opened again to foreign 
industry and foreign capital, has induced me to submit to the public two interesting publications 
of this highly favored region."— Extract from Introduction. 

Histoire de Jules Cesar. 

Par S. M. I. Napoleon III. Tome Premier. 8vo. With Maps and Portrait. 
Cloth. Price, $2.50. Without maps, paper, $1. 

" No work has excited as much attention as the Life of Julius Csesar, by the Emperor Napoleon» 
which has been so many years in preparation, involving the expenditure of large sums of money 
in procuring material and examining localities." — Miss. Republican. 

" We are glad to see it in this form, because we get a clearer insight into the illustrious author 
through his own vernacular. The original gives the best spirit of a book, and it is always to be pre- 
ferred."— Boston Gazette. 


The Handbook of Dining, or Corpulency 

and Leanness Scientifically Considered ; comprising the Art of Dining on Cor- 
rect Principles, Consistent with Easy Digestion, the Avoidance of Corpulency, 
and the Cure of Leanness. Together with special remarks on the subjects. 
By Brillat-Savarin, author of the " Physiologie du Gout." Translated by 
L. F. Simpson. 12mo. Cloth. Price, $1.25. 

" This is a book that almost everybody will wish to read, as almost every one is either too fleshv 
or too lean, and consequently will desire to see what directions so eminent a writer as Savarin 
gives to prevent one and cure the other. The volume contains curious facts and suggestions, 
and some very valuable ones." — Eastern Argus. 

Freedom of Mind in Willing, or Every 

Being that Wills a Creative First Cause. By Kowland G. Hazard. 12mo 
pp. 455. Cloth. Price, $2. 

" It is a very admirable wovk ; a book for thinkers."— Boston Gazette. 

" A valuable addition to the literature of the subject ; its style is clear and its arguments both 
strong and well put." — The Methodist. 

Beatrice. By Julia Kavanagh, author 

of " Nathalie," " Adele," " Queen Mab," etc., etc. Three volumes in one. 12mo. 
Cloth. Price, $2. 

" This is one of the best novels published in a long time. The authoress has achieved a reputa- 
tion second to none in the literary world as a romance writer. This is her last great effort, 
and it is a remarkably interesting one. The plot is a candid embodiment of great ideas and ac- 
tion." — Troy Times. 

" The scene is laid in one of the suburbs of London. The insight into certain phases of social 
life which it gives is curious. The heroine * Beatrice ' is a striking character. The plotting French- 
man 'Gervoise' is also drawn with consummate art. In a word, there is more real sturdy stuff 
in Beatrice than in a score of the current novels of the day." — Albany Evening Journal. 

Report of the Council of Hygiene and 

Public Health of the Citizens' Association of New York upon the Sanitary 
Condition of the City. Published with an introductory statement, by order 
of the Council of the Citizens' Association. Large 8vo, 360 pp. Illustrated 
with numerous maps, plans, and sketches. Cloth. Price, $5. 

"Is devoted to a minute account of the causes of disease, death, and misery, and of the sani- 
tary reforms needful to arrest those evils." — New York Express. 

" No volume of intenser interest has ever seen the light in this city than this record of the state 
of things now existing. The investigations have been most thorough."— New York Paper. 

" The result is no mere collection of statistics, but interesting, deeply interesting rehearsals of 
facts." — New York Commercial Advertiser. 

At Anchor : A Story of our Civil War, 

by an American. 12mo. Cloth. Price, $1.50. 

" This is a story of the war, well written and interesting from the beginning to the close. Those 
who commence will be sure to read it through." — Boston Journal. 

"A graceful and readable story of flirting and fighting, and love and loyalty." — Congre-